I have seen a lot of incorrect speculation is in circulation with regard to the Council’s plans for Lydiard House and Park. To be clear, Cabinet started this process by adopting a clear principle: they are not for sale; anyone who tells you that the Council is considering selling them off is just wrong.
I appreciate some residents might be concerned even at the Council asking how it might increase revenue from the Park and House, but so far, no practical alternatives have been put forward. At the last Council meeting, a motion asked Councillors to delay the whole process, but as the old saying goes, procrastination is the thief of time.
We are already looking at different ways we can reduce the annual subsidy, currently running at around £450,000 with the aim of having a surplus to allow investment in the site.
Some people may think the Council can and ought to do everything, including making things more commercial. However, we are not experts in generating more income this way. That is why we commissioned a specialist organisation to see what opportunities are available. This could be through a trust, a not-for-profit, or a commercial company. No proposals exist at this time; the Council has not made any decisions.
We have now held two public engagement events at the Lydiard Visitors’ Centre. The first took place on Wednesday, 18 November while the second was on Sunday, 22 November. I will look forward to the feedback. This is only the first stage and it will take some time before there are outline proposals on which Cabinet will be asked to vote and which the all-party Scrutiny Committee will be able to examine.
The reason why we are doing this now is that we are currently working on the draft budget for 2016/17, which is proving the most difficult we have ever had to produce. As part of that, we are making many changes in the services we provide, and the way we provide them, to secure improved results across the borough. We are doing this in the context of rising demand for personalised care services and the restrictions on raising income.
We are playing our part in supporting central government’s policies to restore fiscal responsibility to the nation’s public finances, which means we have to find a further £20m of savings in next year’s budget in addition to the £17.5m we have to make this year and the £100m we have saved in the past five years.
Whatever the budget pressures, I will repeat the commitment I made above which Cabinet has made, which the Administration makes. We are committed to finding new sources of income from Lydiard, but the House and Park are not for sale.