On Monday evening, Otley’s Labour Town Council will propose its budget.
There’ll be a proposal for a small increase in the precept – that is the local tax every household pays for their town or parish council.
But in exchange, there is a really exciting offering for the people of Otley – and at its heart, a major impact study which will provide exactly what Otley needs in the face of proposed new housing developments.

John Eveleigh, Leader of Otley Town Council
John Eveleigh, Leader of Otley Town Council

The largest item of extra spending will be on a major traffic survey – which will put the Town Council in a very strong position when it comes to understanding and managing the impact of any new housing. It will also allow testing of exciting options for traffic in Otley and the town centre – pedestrianisation, bypass extension and managing traffic flows and hold-ups.

The traffic impact assessment study throws the Town Council’s weight behind the analysis of the ODD [the Otley development campaign group] – that an independent impact assessment was essential so that the likely consequences of proposed housing developments could be understood.

With Local Development Framework proposals at the forefront of minds at the moment, this impact assessment is crucial.

As John Eveleigh, Town Council Leader – and Otley and Yeadon candidate in next May’s election – puts it
“This is an important study and we do need this information as soon as possible and to get a contract out to a company early in the year before any planning applications start to come in.”

The funding for this study accounts for the biggest element in the proposed rise.

But in addition, there’s money for the Wharfedale Greenway project – an off-road cycle superhighway and Pedestrian network from Pool to Burley
– and for the Otley Citizen’s Advice Bureau – currently under threat.
Plus two payments to support a local business’s plan to restore hire boats to the Wharfe, and to fund an anti-litter campaign.

Local Government finance often seems like a dry subject. But it’s at the heart of what we can do for our communities.
Otley Labour Council are showing in miniature what Labour can mean in government.
Not rolling back the state to hold down taxation at all costs.
But providing excellent value for money – spending for all Otley’s citizens, to improve all their lives
.

Below we publish a more detailed statement from the Labour Group on the budget.

“On Monday evening Labour will be proposing the annual budget for Otley Town Council.

First off, we’re proposing to raise the precept to £63.42. So this is an extra £5.44 per year. Before we explain WHY we’re raising the precept this year, it’s really important to put the rise in context.

Over the last four years we’ve RAISED the precept twice and REDUCED it twice (for example, last year we reduced it by 17%). So on balance the precept has only risen very gradually. In 2011 it was £60.63 – which means an increase to £63.42 in 2015 works out at a 1.1% increase each year (which is lower than inflation). And in fact, the average precept for the last four years is even lower than that (at £61.78).

There are two reasons why we’ve raised the precept this year. The main reason is that last year we made a temporary reduction to hand £28,000 back to ratepayers in Otley – we’re raising the precept now to bring it back into balance.

But another reason is to help fund a really important piece of work in which we’re sure the people of Otley will be interested.

For the last six months we’ve been trying to pull together the funding for a FULL TRAFFIC STUDY of Otley. We’re now proposing to commit £10,500 of our budget (and another £7,000 for contingencies) to fund such a study. Our commitment will be significantly boosted through a £5,000 contribution from the BID team in Otley (representing Otley businesses) and £2,500 from Otley Town Partnership.

The study will bring in an independent engineering consultancy to do a holistic study of traffic patterns across the whole of Otley. There will be three key phases to this study:

(i) They will simultaneously collect traffic data from all key routes and junctions. This will help us to understand traffic flows and get a big picture understanding of traffic in Otley.

(ii) Using this data they will model the impact of various changes to Otley and the surrounding area – importantly this will help us understand the impact of proposed new housing.

(iii) Finally, we will have the most exciting phase of the study – options testing. Using the detailed traffic data, this will explore the potential to make various upgrades to the town. For example, how much would an extension to the bypass help traffic in the Town Centre? Could we ever find a way to pedestrianize parts of the Town Centre? Can we upgrade specific junctions to ease hold ups? Can we re-sequence traffic lights to change the flows of traffic?

We want this study to open up the opportunity for some real improvements to the town in the future. If plans for new housing do materialise, then we want to be in a strong position to negotiate with developers and the planners for upgrades to our traffic network. We need a hard, evidence-based study of Otley to do this – and if our budget gets passed on Monday then this will happen.

Final note –there have been comments from people in Otley before about the need not just to focus on car traffic.
This is absolutely correct!
We’re also using part of our budget to continue the work we’ve been doing on making the Wharfedale Greenway a reality. This would be an off-road cycle superhighway and pedestrian network that runs from Pool along the old railway line, to Otley and then through to Menston train station and Burley.
Working with Sustrans and other local councils we’re close to preparing a bid for millions of pounds worth of funding to make this happen.
So this would be a really important part of our strategy to promote SUSTAINABLE and STRESS FREE transport in Otley.”

If you want to help John in his campaign in Otley this May, or to support our candidate, Alex Sobel, working for change at Westminster, why not sign up here

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