Ukip have been a part of a ‘Rainbow’ Cabinet on the Forest of Dean District Council for the past 12 months. The Cabinet is made up of Forest First (ex -Labour), an Independent, a Green and 2 UKIP Councillors.
Alan Grant is Ward member for Yorkley and Cabinet Member responsible for Planning. Richard Leppington is Ward member for Bream and his cabinet portfolio comprises Regeneration, Infrastructure, Asset Management and Housing.
The new Cabinet agreed two main priorities. Firstly, to ensure that residents had decent, affordable housing. Secondly, that our people had good, local, well-paying employment.
Over the last year, a great deal has been achieved. We are currently working on plans to develop the Northern Quarter site in Cinderford and the Five Acres site in Coleford. We are working with Homes England to bring housing and economic regeneration to the Northern Quarter. Our plans for Five Acres revolve around a destination leisure complex, hotel and retail, and state-of-the-art sports facilities.
As funding to local government continues to be cut by Westminster, the Cabinet have delivered a balanced budget with a small increase in Council Tax. This was partly assisted by judicious use of Council reserves. We have used assets to purchase commercial properties to bring money into the Council coffers.
The Council is currently working to set up a Housing Development Company. This will enable the authority to build our own housing and industrial units. We are particularly anxious to provide houses for affordable rents to address the huge waiting list we inherited from the Tories.
Construction will start shortly on our first project to provide 10 one – bedroom flats and 3 starter units for local businesses in Coleford. We are using local contractors and sourcing local materials. We have also secured an agreement to employ a number of apprentices during the build.
Finally, the Cabinet created the Forest Economic Partnership to provide a district wide body that actively promotes economic growth and development. The Council currently drives a number of economic regeneration partnerships in Cinderford and Lydney. The partnership is concentrating its efforts around education and skills, digital connectivity, transport and infrastructure and cross border working.
Partnership working and future joint working meetings have been set up with Monmouthshire and Stroud Councils, the Secretary of State for Wales and the Mayor of Bristol.
So, in the Forest of Dean, the question of ‘what is the point of UKIP’ is being answered at local level.