I AM very proud to say that, once again, Kingston Council has been able to approve a balanced budget for the financial year starting in April.

We have achieved this despite the Government having reduced our central grant from £66 million in 2010 to zero since 2018. This year, ministers have decided to only give Kingston £4,000, whereas other councils still receive several million in central grant. Therefore, council tax will increase by 1.99 per cent in April. This has been a difficult decision, but given the removal of practically all government funding, almost 90 per cent of what we spend now has to come from council tax and business rates. We are committed to keeping our services going – unlike so many other London boroughs where, for example, waste collection had to be reduced.

Surrey Comet: Now homes as part of the Small Sites programme is enabling residents to live more sustainablyNow homes as part of the Small Sites programme is enabling residents to live more sustainably

The budget confirms the council’s commitment to spend more than £147 million on vital services for residents. This will include people living with dementia, older people reliant on social care and children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). We will further invest in measures supporting victims of domestic abuse.

We will be providing a new special school for children with additional needs in Chessington and a post-16 SEND campus is also planned for the borough. Later this year, we will also deliver a new residential dementia facility in Surbiton, harnessing the latest technology efficiently to make sure the growing number of our residents living with this condition can live in homes equipped to give them the best possible quality of life.

Providing the homes that Kingston needs is an essential part of the council’s plans for the next decade, and we are starting straight away. Around 2,170 new homes are set to be provided as part of the Cambridge Road Estate regeneration scheme in Norbiton and more than 940 will be council homes, allowing more local people to continue living and working in the borough.

Surrey Comet: More than 2,000 new homes are plannedMore than 2,000 new homes are planned

The council is determined to become carbon neutral by 2030 because climate action is something that cannot wait. That is why new homes are being built as part of our Small Sites programme to the highest possible standards of construction and design, reducing carbon emissions and enabling residents to live more sustainably. This is just one of our many climate initiatives – which range from the Active Travel scheme to helping businesses grasp opportunities in the green economy.

Of course, there are a great many things that make Kingston a wonderful place to live and the brand-new community leisure complex we are building on the site of the old Kingfisher sports centre will enhance and improve many of these qualities. It will help transform this part of Kingston’s town centre by connecting the new complex effectively with the neighbouring library and museum. The planning application has already been submitted. Detailed plans and further information are available on our website. This will make it a fantastic cultural and leisure destination which celebrates the borough’s unique history and heritage.

We know leisure, health and fitness - alongside wider cultural and economic recovery - are so important following the Covid pandemic. That is why we also plan to provide a new community leisure facility and swimming pool as part of the Cocks Crescent redevelopment in New Malden. Furthermore, our new leisure strategy makes clear that there is still more swimming provision required in the borough. So, we are now exploring the potential of a new swimming pool in the south of the borough, possibly at Chessington Sport Centre.

Kingston promises to be an even better place to live and work thanks to the improvements we are making. Our effective financial management has made this possible.