Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Homes Bonus - Money for Local Communities. Where is St Neots?

I was sent a message from a District Councillor which says:
Remember the New Homes Bonus (government's name) is not specifically for the town the home is built in (S106/SIL is and remains) - but for authorities delivering and managing growth!!

I disagree. From its inception the money should be used in consultation with the local communities it affects. In a Ministerial written statement to Parliament Rt. Hon. Grant Shapps MP says:

"The New Homes Bonus will be unring-fenced. This flexible funding will allow the benefits of housing growth to be returned to those communities affected by growth in a way which best meets local need. Local authorities will need to lead the debate with their communities to determine local spending priorities."

In the pdf file which has the final scheme, it says:
  • Transparent - it will be easy for councillors, the community and developers to calculate and to see the early benefits of growth.  
  • Flexible - local authorities will be able to decide how to spend the funding in line with local community wishes. The Government expects local councillors to work closely with their communities – and in particular the neighbourhoods most affected by housing growth – to understand their priorities for investment and to communicate how the money will be spent and the benefits it will bring. This may relate specifically to the new development or more widely to the local community. For example, they may wish to offer council tax discounts to local residents, support frontline services like bin collections, or improve local facilities like playgrounds and parks. This will enable local councillors to lead a more mature debate with local people about the benefits of growth, not just the costs. The Bonus will be paid through section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 as an unringfenced grant.  
  • 6. We want the economic benefits of housing growth to be more visible to the local community. We have therefore designed the New Homes Bonus around the council tax revenues generated from housing development.  
  • Ministerial Foreword.The New Home Bonus will have localism at its heart. It will re-energise communities. It will encourage local politicians to lead a debate with communities about the benefits of new homes. Local authorities will be expected to work with local people to develop their housing plans in ways that meet their needs and concerns.
Time and gain the statements refer to local communities and how this money will be shown to be spent. This money is being nicked by the Conservative administration at HDC to prop up their Budget. They haven't got the balls to go to a referendum over a Council tax rise so they have just taken the bonus and ignored the wishes of the local communities. With roughly £36,000,000 of New Homes Bonus due, St Neots will see nothing tangible for all this extra money! This money is intended for the local communities to help with make developments more acceptable to local communities. The rest of St Neots must see the benefit of East of St Neots expansion and other developments. In the case of St Neots this will substantial amounts of money which will just go into the HDC black hole.

HDC is getting the New Homes Bonus. What is St Neots (and other areas) where the development is taking place getting out of it? Answer: Nothing!

1 comment:

John said...

One very obvious very local use of some of those funds would be to finance an indoor swimming pool facility on the former swimming pool site - this would serve the school pupils of Longsands secondary school (increasingly important since there are no plans or proposals to build any secondary school facility east of the railway line), the local primary schools and the inhabitants of the new large housing estates east of the railway line as well as those inhabitants on the north side of the town.