District of Opportunity – Wealden District Council’s Corporate Plan for 2019-23

The Council’s Corporate Plan sets out its direction and priorities for the next four years.

In the 2019 Corporate Plan we highlighted the amount of change in local government we had experienced throughout the period of the previous plan; little did we know what was to come during the period of this plan. In the latter part of 2019 we saw the emergence of what we now know to be the largest national peacetime emergency in over a century – COVID-19.

As a Council and a community the past 18 months have seen a great coming together of effort to combat the pandemic and protect all our residents. Alongside dealing with the effect of COVID we have also adopted a new Climate Change Action Plan following our declaration of a climate emergency. The action plan sets out how we are going to work towards both the council and the wider District being net-zero CO2 by 2050 at the latest.

In June 2019, in recognition of the IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C we declared a climate emergency. In response to the climate emergency, we have undertaken to work towards net-zero CO2 by 2050 for both the Council and the Wealden District area.

Following our declaration of a climate emergency we have developed and adopted a Climate Change Action Plan. The action plan has identified significant changes that need to happen in relation to policy, behaviour change and technology, locally and nationally to achieve our net zero ambition.

We have a leadership role to play in examining our own operations, buildings, fleet and services and identifying best practice measures that we can implement for areas within our control. Alongside this we also have a role to play in working with partners to facilitate wider change across Wealden as well as to exert influence over Government policy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented challenges for everyone. As a local authority we have had to change the way we work in order to protect and support our residents and businesses whilst adapting to changes in Government guidance and regulations as the pandemic progressed. We have also worked closely with our staff to ensure their safety and wellbeing whilst continuing to deliver the essential services that our customers rely on.

In the 12 months up to March 2021 we have:

  • Created a COVID-19 safe work environment for staff to keep services running smoothly, using social distancing and protective equipment and ensuring home-working wherever possible
  • Distributed over £53 million pounds of various business support grants
  • Dealt with over 1,200 enquiries through the Wealden Community Hub
  • Supported residents facing financial hardship due to the pandemic including the payment of self-isolation support grants
  • Ensured that no-one was rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping from the start of the pandemic despite an increase in demand and a shortage of emergency accommodation
  • Supported partners in the roll out of testing and vaccination sites.

We have tried to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on our services and our drive towards achieving the vision and aims of the Corporate Plan.

This includes the early adoption of a Restart and Recovery Plan. We recognise that, as the country begins to work its way out of the restrictions and back towards the new normal, this is an opportunity to revisit where we are and how we go forward to deliver our vision. Our focus will be on supporting the economy and protecting jobs as the country recovers.

Since the start of the plan in April 2019, whilst COVID-19 has influenced our activities we continued to deliver our Corporate Plan ambitions, including:

  • We have secured over £28m for infrastructure within the District and are working with partners to deliver new school places and major highways improvements; we are also providing over £2.5m to Town and Parish Councils
  • We have delivered over 530 affordable and 1200 market homes across the District.
  • Our housing company, Sussex Weald Homes has worked to meet the demand of first time buyers or those looking to downsize, delivering 34 new homes at Woodpecker View in Crowborough
  • Our community grants programme has provided in excess of £320,000 to support our partners including Citizens Advice Bureau, 3VA, Care for the Carers, Conservators of Ashdown Forest and People Matter
  • We are working with partners to improve health outcomes for our residents. Pre-COVID our leisure centre usage peaked at some 1.1 million annual visits and we are taking an active role in delivering new healthcare facilities in Mayfield, Hailsham and Polegate
  • We have declared a climate emergency and set our detailed action plan. As a Council and District we will be net-zero by 2050
  • We now have over 110 services available online through MyWealden, our self-service portal, helping us to deal with over 100,000 visits a month to our online services, saving us time to help those who need us most
  • Working with our contractor we now recycle 49.5% of the waste we collect, with 50% being turned into electricity and just 0.5% sent to landfill
  • Through our proactive intervention work, we have prevented over 865 households from becoming homeless since April 2019
  • We have introduced a vital new service to residents with our state of the art crematorium which is producing a commercial return
  • We have frozen Council tax for 2021/22, while maintaining valued services to our customers
  • We have helped 3,900 residents with housing benefit and 6,888 with Council Tax reduction

Ensure development meets future needs, with associated investment in infrastructure.

How? We will deliver a local plan for the district that provides a balanced approach to housing, growth, the environment and our residents.

How? We will help our partners deliver the right infrastructure to support our communities not just for now but also into the future.

Ensure that Wealden is Carbon Zero by 2050 at the latest.

How? In everything that we do we will consider our impact on climate change in order to deliver our climate change action plan and move Wealden towards becoming a carbon neutral area as soon as possible.

Improve access to essential services for all our communities.

How? We will put first class customer service at the core of how we operate, leading with digital solutions, but being mindful of the needs of all.

Promote a better quality of life for Wealden people through activities that improve health, resilience and wellbeing.

How? We will work alongside partners to reduce health inequalities by encouraging and  promoting better leisure, sporting and recreational facilities.

Generate ongoing sources of income to reinvest in local priorities and optimise funding from external sources.

How? We will continue to pursue commercial opportunities to keep council tax low while maintaining valued services to customers.

Support our local businesses, tourism sector and entrepreneurs to achieve a locally sustainable economy.

How? We will support our economy to recover and flourish in a post COVID-19 world.

Work with partners to regenerate our diverse market towns, creating jobs and attracting investment.

How? We will lead on our key Hailsham Town Centre regeneration project (Hailsham Aspires) ensuring we capture all the learning and best practice to take into other projects in the future.

Protect and enhance Wealden’s unique natural environment and heritage

How? We will care for our natural and historic environment through our actions and working with our partners.

Progress against the delivery of this Corporate Plan and its objectives will be managed and reported on a regular basis. In-keeping with our commitment to transparency and accountability, quarterly reports will continue to be considered at Cabinet and Overview and Scrutiny committees. These reports will include updates against the priority objectives and relevant performance indicators measuring the impact of our activities. These reports and the meetings will be publicly available on our website.