Massive opportunity for Bedford-wide improvements missed, as Lib Dem and Labour Councillors accidentally ditch entire Capital Projects Programme
Plans for new GP centres and urgent road repairs left in limbo
At a meeting of Bedford Borough’s Full Council on Wednesday 29th November, the entire Borough Capital Projects Programme was junked, after Liberal Democrat Councillors moved an amendment to the Capital Programme report, rejecting the Conservative Group’s plans to take Bedford forward after years of decline under the previous Mayor.
The Lib Dem amendment, supported by Labour and Green Party Councillors, deleted the entire Capital programme and requested that the Conservative Cabinet reconsider its capital programme strategy.
Amongst a lengthy list of projects, the Cabinet’s proposals for the Capital Programme included:
- £9m for developing the Primary Care Estate, in conjunction with the Integrated Care Board, to ensure new and improved GP facilities in Wixams, Wootton, and Great Barford, as well as the Kempston Hub
- £3.9m on refurbishment of Borough leisure sites, funding urgent and essential works to improve public safety
- Up to £1m to support the delivery of additional cemetery capacity to meet the needs of the Muslim faith
- £25m for Town Centre Development, to be spent on a suite of projects to reinvigorate both Bedford and Kempston town centres
All of this is now gone, after the Liberal Democrat amendment to the programme was approved and the capital programme rejected. Also dashed were hopes of immediate repairs on Paula Radcliffe Way, where £1.24m is urgently required to repair crash barriers, which have rusted beyond repair, due to water damage.
The Borough Council’s Cabinet must now reconsider the capital programme prior to the January meeting of the Council.
Portfolio Holder for Finance, and Conservative Group leader, Cllr Graeme Coombes (Wixams & Wilstead ward) commented:
“I think that the public would be shocked to know that for some parties, apparently playing political games takes precedence over GP surgeries, much needed road works and town centre regeneration. Those residents waiting for new health centres or wanting improved leisure facilities won’t be rushing to thank the Liberal Democrats for their game playing.
I’m not sure that Liberal Democrats, proposing at the very last minute that the whole capital programme should be deleted, and Labour Councillors being led into agreeing with it, actually realise what they have done. Many Labour Councillors have previously spoken in favour of the Kempston Hub and cemetery provision for the Muslim community, but they have now voted against them. We also cannot now progress with urgent safety repairs to Paula Radcliffe Way, as these have effectively been blocked by the decision of the Council. I find this situation incredibly frustrating, as I’m sure will many residents.
This isn’t the end of the process, but I would remind all Councillors of the importance of who we act for and on behalf of – the Bedford public. Mayor Tom Wootton has an ambitious vision for Bedford and he and the Cabinet will deliver the much-needed improvements that residents are crying out for. We will present a revised programme in January 2024 and, rather than grandstanding, I hope Councillors of all parties and none can work together for Bedford Borough and agree to invest in vital and much needed public infrastructure, for the benefit of Bedford residents and Bedford businesses.”