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The Leader's blog - March 2016

Hello and welcome to my March blog.

I’d like to begin this month’s blog with an update on the council’s 2016/17 budget. 

On Monday 29 February, plans for this year’s council budget were approved at Full Council. There is no avoiding the fact that we are facing a challenging budget and tough decisions need to be made. Despite having already saved more than £93million since 2010, the authority continues to be squeezed by escalating costs on one side and reduced funding from central government on the other. Because of this we have to bridge a £22million gap in our budget for 2016/17.

I must also take the opportunity to address the YMCA contract. It has served us well for eight years and we very much appreciate what has been achieved in that time. As with any third party contract, we carry out regular reviews to ensure that we are offering the right services to the right people and ensuring best value for local taxpayers. Our priority is meeting the needs of vulnerable people.

On a more positive note, I’m pleased to report that a multi-storey car park will be joining the Bridge Street Regeneration scheme. Planning approval has been granted and construction is expected to start this year, with a report going to Executive Board in April to award the contract. Once completed, the eight-level multi-storey will provide around 1,200 parking spaces - another great move forward for the regeneration of the town centre!

We’ve also had a number of park openings in the past month, including Walton Hall, Bank Park and Victoria Park. Spring visitors to Walton Hall and Gardens will be able to enjoy a brand new playground and adventure golf course; Bank Park received a Wolves-themed make over; and Victoria Park premiered its new outdoor sports facility. At a time of real economic squeeze, it’s fantastic that we can still invest in community projects that will benefit all. 

The construction of Warrington’s first University Technical College is continuing at pace and is on schedule for its September 2016 opening. The deadline for applications closed this month and I’m pleased to note that we’ve had 195 applications for prospective students – the most subscribed UTC in the UK!

Birchwood station users might have noticed a few changes recently. The station has been renovated and is now fully accessible with step-free access throughout. Thanks to Network Rail’s Access for All scheme, the station now boasts newly installed lifts and ramps to make it accessible to all passengers including those with reduced mobility, children or heavy luggage.

Warrington’s rail transport links play a huge part in both community and business life in the town and these new facilities will enable everyone to use Birchwood station easily and safely.

Finally, some more great news for the town, as I’m delighted to welcome Communications regulator, Ofcom, who are set to open their new office at centre park in the town. The move will create 50 jobs in the town and is planned to be fully operational by the summer.