Investing in Doncaster: Q+A with Mayor Ros Jones

The Mayor of Doncaster discusses the choices she has made in the council’s upcoming annual budget.
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Doncaster Council’s budget for 2024-2028 will see a capital investment package of over £500 million in schemes across the borough.

Over half of this will fund the building and acquisition of new social homes, alongside projects such as investment in leisure centres.

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Can you explain how the large investments in the capital budget, such as the refurbishment of The Dome, will benefit the council during a time when its funding is lowest?

Mayor Ros Jones.Mayor Ros Jones.
Mayor Ros Jones.

“Doncaster Dome provides a profit that is reinvested in our wider Doncaster pools and leisure centres. As such this investment is vital for the continued operation of Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust.

“In Doncaster we are investing heavily in our pools and leisure centres, where many councils are actually looking to reduce opening hours, with some councils closing pools and leisure centres.

“Our funding is limited, and as such we must focus on urgent investments, invest to save and invest to increase income.

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“Other specific government grants will fund some schemes such as Transforming Cities Fund, City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, Levelling Up Fund, Town Deals etc…”

Why did you decide to allocate over half of the capital budget to social housing and how will this change the borough in the years ahead?

“Over the next four years we plan to invest £227m in the council’s social housing stock. This includes over £100m on our council house build programme.

“In Doncaster we have circa 8,000 people on the register for council housing. Our council housing provides affordable rents to almost 20,000 residents.

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“Like many other towns and cities across the country we are seeing more people than ever struggling to make ends meet and increased homelessness. Our investment in social housing will help support more Doncaster residents and families.

“We are also investing heavily with nearly £16m to improve Council Housing Energy Efficiency, to reduce energy consumption, heating costs and reduce fuel poverty.”

Full council is set to vote whether to approve the annual budget on Monday, 26 February.

A Council Tax increase of 4.99 percent and a social housing rent increase of seven percent have also been proposed, in line with other authorities across the country.

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Have any opportunities been identified for funding for a new hospital?

“A new hospital for Doncaster is estimated at circa £1.37bn, this would need to be funded by government and has currently been rejected.

“I would love to see a new hospital for Doncaster and I will continue to work with our local NHS who are under immense pressure.

“If government are unwilling to provide the necessary funds for a new hospital then our local NHS will have to look at other options as DRI currently has a repairs backlog of over £118m.”

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Doncaster’s brownfield Waterfront area had previously been identified for a new hospital.

Ahead of securing investment for this or another project, the council is set to turn the area into public open space.

Is the council still hoping to rebuild Edlington Leisure Centre and has funding been identified for this?

“Sadly, our Levelling Up Fund bid for Don Valley was turned down by government despite cross party support.

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“Government stated back in November that there would be £100m from the Levelling Up Fund set aside for culture, we are hopeful that Edlington Pool will be eligible for this fund, but we currently await details.

“We are reviewing our options in relation to a pool for Edlington, but we must be mindful that interest rates are now at 5.25 per cent, whereas back in 2021 it was 0.1 per cent interest rate.”

Following the agreement that the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority will fund £138 towards reopening Doncaster Sheffield Airport, are you feeling more confident that this will take place?

“We are following our very careful and methodical plan with the aim of saving and reopening our airport. The funding secured is simply another step in the right direction.

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“The next stage will be to finalise our Full Business Case over the coming months. We aim to have an operator appointed in the spring and the lease negotiations are continuing.

“I will of course share more information when I can. I am hopeful, but we are not over the line yet.”