Projects highlighted in the Conservative leaflet were delivered on time and on budget. Any problems were due to the previous conservative administrations overspend.
When the coalition came to power in 2019 we rapidly put in place new project management systems to avoid the sorts of cost overruns that had happened with previous projects like Blueschool House. We’ve also had to sort out problems such as the previous Conservative administration’s overspend on the City Link Road.
In terms of the specific projects highlighted in the Conservative leaflet:
St Owen’s Street cycle lane
This didn’t go over budget. It was originally designed several years ago. However, government guidance on cycle lane design changed in July 2020, so it had to be redesigned accordingly. It was built in late 2022/early 2023, with no overspend. The cycle lane element came in within budget (£700k); the additional £470k was for additional works to improve the rest of the road surface, parking provision and so on. These were planned works funded from a different budget, which Balfour Beatty brought forward in order to minimise disruption. There were some initial quality control issues and these were quickly fixed by the contractor, at their own expense. Cyclists are now able to safely access the city from the eastern side, and drivers have a better road surface.
Some years ago, under the previous administration, Herefordshire applied for £3 million from the LEP (Local Economic Partnership) for the Hereford City Centre Improvement project (HCCI). It included money for capital investment in things like planters. This was money that had to be spent in the city, on specific types of things.
The money that was used to buy the planters on the City Link Road would have had to be sent back to the LEP if not spent. Due to the government rules about the money, it simply could not have been spent on things like repairing potholes in rural areas.
The trees have not died. In winter, trees lose their leaves - they will be in full leaf again soon when the weather warms up. As part of the same project, new trees and seating were introduced in Hereford City Centre, and these have had very many positive comments from residents and visitors alike. As anyone who goes to Hereford on a Saturday knows, the city is buzzing, and looking great!
Maylords shopping centre
In 2020 the previous owners of the Maylords shopping centre were threatening to sell it off to a private developer who might not have had the best interests of Herefordshire at heart. The council recognised the opportunity to regenerate Maylords and bought it for £4.5 million. We made a commitment to invest in it to regenerate the area and to generate social value.
And we’ve delivered on this promise - the shops are now buzzing, and we’ve raised £3 million from the Towns Fund to create a new library and learning centre in part of Maylords. We’ve put our social value principles into practice by offering discounted rents for social enterprises and creating opportunities for local start-up businesses. The purchase of Maylords is a great example of the council taking a long-term strategic view of what’s good for the city and the county. The revenue from rents covers the running costs and we’ve protected this part of the city from speculative development. The money used to buy Maylords was capital funding from the Development and Regeneration Fund - it could not have been used for pothole-fixing.
So as these examples show, we ensure projects are delivered on time and to budget; we spend government money as best as the grant conditions allow; and we take big brave decisions to benefit everyone in the county.
We are a Coalition of Care and Competence.