New £1.5million road and better seafront toilets Sunderland City Council reveals plans for spending and cuts

Mel Speding

Mel Speding

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A new £1.5million road linking the city's "Minster Quarter" is among spending plans revealed by council chiefs.

Sunderland City Council has released more details of tis 2016/2017 budget, which will go before the city's ruling Labour cabinet next week.

The meeting next Wednesday will also set the provisional figure for council tax levels in Sunderland..

A provisional figure for the Sunderland Council Tax is also due to be announced at the meeting on Wednesday 10 February.

Among the £58million of new projects in the proposals are:

Minster Quarter Access Road £1.5m in 2017/2018 - a new access road is proposed through the police station site to help open up the Minster Quarter Area. This is to improve traffic movements in the area and assist with the wider regeneration of the area;

City centre improvements in Park Lane, Holmeside, Waterloo Place, upgrading access between the University of Sunderland in Chester Road and the city centre (£5.8m over the next three years);

Flood and Coastal Protection Programme £1.012m over four years with funding secured from the Environment Agency. Programme includes city wide culvert repairs, alleviating surface water flooding in Springwell Village and completing an Integrated Drainage Study in Houghton and Hetton;

Seafront Toilet Refurbishment £0.300million over two years to fund the completion of a rolling programme of seafront toilet refurbishment, including improvements to the tram shelter toilets and Marine Walk north toilet block to improve facilities at the seafront for visitors;

Allocating £6million to highways maintenance spending over the next four years including the reconstruction and re-surfacing of the Washington A1231 Sunderland Highway between the Nissan Interchange and the A195 Interchange westbound, and between the A195 and the Peel Industrial Estate eastbound.

The meeting on Wednesday is outlining the capital budget for one-off spending proposals such as for roads, school buildings, land or equipment.

Revenue budget proposals, which are for ongoing services, were outlined at last month’s Cabinet meeting.

The final budget meeting is on Wednesday 2 March.

Councillor Mel Speding, the City Council’s Cabinet Secretary is presenting the proposals.

He said capital spending plans for next year include on-going and new investments of more than £122m to help support jobs, regeneration and wealth creation.

"It is a council priority to continue investing in all our city's infrastructure as we improve its attractiveness to residents, visitors and businesses," he said.

"We are continuing our investment in economic regeneration through acquiring strategic assets for development, supporting housing delivery and maintaining and improving transport connectivity. These all help create the conditions for growth."

In Hetton Downs Regeneration is to continue with designs for a proposed northern access road.

The council has already approved and committed a total of £195m to other capital projects such as the Railway Station, two-way traffic in North Bridge and more seafront improvements.

Last month, when outlining the revenue budget Cllr Speding warned people in Sunderland they would notice further changes to council services as they are reviewed, re-modelled, re-designed, or stopped.

He said: "Despite protecting people from the worst of the spending cuts over the last six years, it is inevitable that people are going to feel and notice changes to the services the council provides because of the cuts the council needs to make.

"While we've been consulting with the public on what they also see as priorities, there is no getting away from tougher and harder decisions because of the sustained reductions in Government funding."

Because of Government spending cuts and spending pressures, the council has been changing the way services are delivered. Recent examples include changes to adult care services through the creation of a new company Sunderland Care and Support, changes to library services, and a joint venture Everyone Active for leisure and sport facilities.

The council has cut £207m from its budget as a result of Government funding cuts and spending pressures in the last six years. The council is faced with the need to make further cuts of potentially £115m by 2020. For 2016/2017, the council must reduce its spending by more than £46m.

The council has already announced that for 2016/2017 it is ending its free fortnightly garden waste composting collections and introducing a £25 annual charge. This is to help reduce the £800,000 it costs to run.

Proposals in the revenue budget for 2016/2017 include further transforming of services, maximising non-front line savings, prioritising spend to meet statutory requirements, reducing service standards and commissioned activity, increasing collaboration and further measures to maximise income.

Examples include changes to highways maintenance, registrars fees, and reducing the cost of waste disposal through more recycling.

The council offered people across Sunderland opportunities to comment on the forthcoming budget proposals.

The Cabinet budget report includes feedback on the consultation. It includes details of how a a majority (more than 80 per cent) of the more than 400 people who responded were in favour of moving household waste from the current weekly to fortnightly collections in the future.