No ‘Bah Humbug’, just positivity for 2024
2023 has been yet another very challenging year with record inflation, rocketing energy prices and skills and supply shortages driving up costs and causing delays. All these factors are not excuses; they are facts. Facts that have affected our residents, our NHS, schools, businesses and everyone in all walks of life, including local government, who continue to be asked to do more with less funding.
I am not a ‘bah humbug’ Mayor, but even at Christmas, we look at the situation we are given and plot a course through the turbulent political waters and constant uncertainty to make decisions for the future. That is why we have scrutinised every service we deliver to squeeze every saving we can and consulted with our residents to find out what is most important to them so we can balance our budget and emerge fitter and stronger in 2024.
Because we have built great partnerships with Vision West Notts College, Nottingham Trent University, Mansfield Business Improvement District (BID), Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust and Mansfield Community Voluntary Services (CVS), we have been able to allocate the funding to where we believe it will be of most benefit to our residents and businesses. We have set up a Community Grant Fund to give our community champions across the district from Vibrant Warsop, Kingsway Hall, Forest Town, Switch Up, Ravensdale and Ladybrook Enterprises, to name just a few, funding to support their communities.
We will implement a similar strategy, issuing small start-up or growth grants to entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout 2024 to stimulate our local economy and keep the pound being earned and spent within the district. This strategy, along with bringing services and people to town, will drive the regeneration of the town centre. Design work on the £20 million redevelopment of the old Beales building to form ‘Mansfield Connect’ and the £17 million housing development on White Hart Street will progress throughout 2024.
We will continue to use our investment grants to fund innovative events such as the Windrush Carnival, the Film Festival, and lots more to be announced next year to drive footfall in the town centre and promote Mansfield as a destination to be visited.
Mansfield's unique £75m Seven Trent Water flood alleviation scheme continues to improve the environment of the town centre with urban greening around the Old Town Hall. Alongside our Levelling Up partnership and National Lottery Heritage Funding, we will improve the streetscape, landscaping, planting and have better street furniture in the town centre to increase the pride in Mansfield. This will hopefully enhance consumer confidence and stimulate investment in the town centre.
Mansfield is leading the way on the green agenda. We have already successfully bid for over £2m of funding to retrofit external wall insulation and install loft and cavity wall insulation in over 200 low-income households across Mansfield, many of which were privately owned properties. We are building affordable council homes to the 2025 building regulations that emit 80 percent less CO2, which means they cost less to heat and save the occupant’s money on their heating bills.
The council is proud to be delivering some fantastic schemes. Warsop Health Hub is progressing well and should be open by late summer 2024, turning Berry Hill into a Destination Park, and 77 energy-efficient council homes at Centenary Road should also start on site next year.
Our next mission is to improve our ailing housing stock. 2024 will see a £17.1m investment in repair and improvement works in our council houses. This investment programme will include roofing, windows, doors, electrical upgrades, heating upgrades, fire safety improvements and decarbonisation measures - all of which will positively contribute to these homes’ energy efficiency.
We want to make happier, healthier, and more prosperous lives for all our residents. We want everyone to Make it in Mansfield. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
15 December 2023
Mansfield is ready to take off
On a grey Monday morning last week at the NTU Mansfield Campus, I declared during the launch of the Make it in Mansfield strategy from the Place Board that after decades of under-investment, Mansfield district and the surrounding areas were on the cusp of a renaissance.
Mansfield was ready to take off toward a positive future where everyone can make it in life. Understandably, the historical underinvestment in Mansfield has made communities and local businesses sceptical and have some negative views about our town. We will not hide away from these negative perceptions, which include over 50 percent do not believe Mansfield is a good place to take your career forward.
People want better shops, entertainment, and leisure facilities. People are proud of our history, but more than 50 percent want change. Now is the time to sweep these negative perceptions away. Mansfield is already showing the blueprint for a town centre regeneration by putting people and services back into the town centre with the £20m Levelling Up Mansfield Connect project and the £16m White Hart Street housing development. These projects will breathe a new life, putting people and services back in the heart of our town centre.
We have shown you can Make it in Mansfield for business, as Mansfield was identified as one of the most entrepreneurial towns in England for small business startups. We are Making it in Mansfield with respect to the green agenda. The Severn Trent Flood Alleviation Scheme and Urban Greening have never been done anywhere else on this scale in the UK, and we are leading in retrofitting local homes.
We are Making it in Mansfield for entertainment with our Film Festival, One Fest, and the 72 events we put on this year with partners that has stimulated the local economy; it has given our residents something to enjoy. We have the £20m Levelling Up Partnership investment, which will help continue the redevelopment of our town centre and our communities that have been left behind. We have another £20m over the next ten years as part of the Long-Term Plan for Towns funding and potentially billions of pounds of investment in the East Midlands as part of Devolution.
Last week, we started the £7m redevelopment on the Bellamy estate, which will see 22 high-quality, affordable homes built to be rented to families on the council’s housing list, built around the newly installed village green area.
The council’s in-house architects have designed the homes in line with the government’s carbon reduction targets to the Future Home Standards, resulting in vastly reduced energy bills, saving residents money. This project will revitalise the estate by constructing a new single-storey parade of retail outlets with a convenience store, café and takeaway, a community orchard, a new traffic calm through road and improved bus connections. The project will support new employment and supply chain opportunities for young people and businesses in line with the council’s procurement policy, which means earning and keeping money within the local economy.
Partnership working is what we do best in Mansfield through public sector and business contributions to the Place Board, Mansfield health partnership, Mansfield CVS, Vision West Nottinghamshire College and Nottingham Trent University, and Mansfield BID.
We will build a confident, ambitious district with the right skills for the future, well-paid jobs, and a vibrant economy with healthy and active communities. This won’t happen overnight; it's time to be bold. Our partners and the public are essential to this journey, so let’s get out there and spread the word that Mansfield is the place where everyone can make it in life!
20 November 2023
Mansfield is not alone struggling to balance the finances
Insufficient government funding for more than a decade, combined with high service demand and rising costs, have put finances on a knife edge for almost all local authorities across the country, irrespective of their political colour. Research information published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), the public finance experts, warned that councils across the UK will face a £3.6 billion funding gap next year. That could rise to around £7.6 billion by 2026 if there is no further funding support from the government.
We will be lobbying, along with district and county council networks, to request the government to commit to their fair funding review, which has been promised for years now but has never been delivered. The ask for the government is to boost spending power by 9 percent as they did for the 2023/2024 settlement and increase local housing allowance in the autumn statement on 22 November to prevent a surge in homelessness.
It is a legal requirement for the council to set a balanced budget each year. We have been reviewing every aspect of our service delivery in detail since July to make efficiencies and identify possible savings and over 400 of our residents have responded to our budget consultation.
The budget proposals will be published in a report that will go to the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 9 November for a robust independent challenge and review. I want to reassure everyone that we have a viable, sensible plan and are doing everything in our power to protect services and deliver for Mansfield residents.
Despite these financial challenges, we have received some fantastic news regarding investment and funding opportunities for Mansfield. We have been working closely with the government on potential schemes that meet the criteria to gain an additional £20 million as part of the Levelling Up Partnership.
On top of this, we are one of 55 towns selected for the government’s Long-Term Plan for Town’s scheme. This scheme could bring in an additional £20 million over the next decade to regenerate the high street, support more town centre housing, tackle anti-social behaviour and stimulate private investment. Our town centre masterplan is being recognised as aligning with government priorities, which is why we are being successful in attracting funding.
However, residents need to be aware that this funding is ring-fenced, which means it cannot be used to help us balance our budget or be used towards our day to day running costs.
Fingers crossed that the government follow through on their promises. Mansfield is on the tipping point of a major revival that will improve the life opportunities for all our residents district-wide.
25 October 2023
Team Mansfield – Let’s pull together during these challenging financially times
You may have heard in the news about Birmingham City Council being taken over the Government because they can no longer balance their finances. I need to emphasise that this is NOT the situation in Mansfield but we like the majority of Councils across the country are just like businesses and residents feeling the effects of rise in energy prices, 15 months of record inflation, skill shortages, higher wage demands and loss of income as a result of the ‘Cost of Living’ crisis.
In addition, we have received a 60% reduction in funding from central government over the last decade which means £millions less to support local services and previous administrations haven’t collected Council Tax which again is £millions in lost income. We now have to make cost savings to balance the budget because we can’t afford to do everything we have done in the past and this is where we need your help.
We want you to let us know what services are most important to you, what you value and use and what you’re not so bothered about. It is a simple survey that should only take a few minutes, just click or copy the link: www.mansfield.gov.uk/budgetconsultation If you don’t have a mobile phone or don’t use a digital device, paper copies are available at the Civic Centre, Mansfield Museum, the Old Town Hall and public libraries in Mansfield, Mansfield Woodhouse, Warsop and Forest Town.. We started the consultation on the 16th September and it runs until 6th October. PLEASE send us your views, your opinion really matters to us – we are Team Mansfield – let’s work through these difficult times together.
My first election pledge was to ‘Care and protect our communities’ which is why I am happy to put in place our new community safety strategy to make tackling antisocial behaviour, neighbourhood crimes and protecting vulnerable people priorities in the coming years. This is essentially about improving quality of life in this district by working closely with our partners and stakeholders. It is not just about tackling crime. Delivering good community safety is multi-faceted, ensuring good health and wellbeing, suitable housing, safe and strong neighbourhoods and positive economic and social regeneration and community cohesion.
I want to change the mind set for our town so we all join together to make the town and district a better place – ‘Team Mansfield’. It is not the Council’s responsibility for everything that happens in these turbulent times and we need to get away from this culture of blaming the Council for everything. I have always been willing to take a lead and ‘actions speak louder than words’, so that is why we will be at the forefront of ‘Mansfield’s 1st Day of Action’ in partnership with Mansfield BID, Nottinghamshire County Council, VIA and the Police on Wednesday 11 October and we want you to join us to show you care about your town. We will give all volunteers PPE and the tools clean, preen, paint our town, see www.mansfieldbid.co.uk/calendar/ for details. Let’s pull together and be a part of ‘Team Mansfield’.
Keeping it local to help our communities and businesses
I believe money is most effectively allocated by keeping it local. Every £1 invested locally sees a return many times over into the local economy.
We believe this is also true when looking after our communities. That is why when we received the UK Shared Prosperity Funding (UKSPF) from Government, we set up the Mansfield Community Grant Fund, which was administered in conjunction with Mansfield CVS. This fund was designed to get financial support to those voluntary groups already active and helping in their communities – our community champions.
Twenty projects across the district in Warsop, Forest Town, Ladybrook and Mansfield Woodhouse have benefited with awards up to £15,000. We will be helping them continue their work in food clubs, with bereavement support, helping to combat drug and alcohol issues, offering financial guidance to get through the cost-of-living crisis, providing community memory cafes and events and installing play equipment for the Ladybrook and Manor parks. We will adopt a similar philosophy to help businesses and skills when the second strand to the UKSPF becomes available, for projects over £15,000, over the next two years.
Tourism has also been a key factor in assisting with the recovery of our region. There has been a 16 percent increase in our local visitor economy, which has really been helping support local businesses. County-wide income worth £2 billion pounds has also supported over 20,500 jobs.
Our 2023 events programme has seen some fantastic highpoints, with the first Windrush Caribbean carnival to highlight the contributions made by the Windrush generation, the inaugural Mansfield Film Festival along with the increasingly popular learning disability OneFest, Armed Forces Day and Party on the Market – all helping drive up business.
We have been doing everything within our means to help families during the ongoing cost of living crisis, which is why most of these events are free to attend, including our Summer Festival, which saw record crowds flock to Titchfield, one of parks closest to the town centre.
Like many other residents, I was very sad to hear about Wilko’s going into administration. I regularly get emails to say how much shoppers miss Debenhams, BHS, Woolworths and Beales. However, it is not within our power to turn back the clock. These closures have come about due to online shopping, COVID-19, and years of emphasis on building out-of-town shopping centres.
The council has to plan and cope with all the financial pressures resulting of these closures as well as the many knock-on effects, including residents having fewer reasons for coming to town and, as a consequence, not spending money and supporting local businesses. This is why our regeneration plans are so important. The investment and funding we have won will help Mansfield recover. The plans to put people and businesses back in the town centre to increase footfall, support start-up businesses, allocate shop front improvement grants and make the town centre more attractive with urban greening projects like the Memorial Garden will all help Mansfield weather the consequences of these turbulent financial times.
There has been some good news this week, the £8.8m tech and skills centre on the Vision West Nottinghamshire College Chesterfield Road campus received planning permission. This educational centre will strongly focus on innovation and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects. There will be facilities to support construction, engineering and digital technologies and advice on how local businesses can adopt these new technologies. The aim is to give local people the skills for the future labour market needs, plug the skills gap, and create well-paid jobs in Mansfield and the wider district. This is the most significant expansion in education in this area for decades, resulting from great partnership working. Works on site are anticipated within weeks, with an opening scheduled in autumn 2024. This is another example of keeping it local to help communities and businesses.
18 August 2023