Tuesday, November 29, 2011

HDC still does not understand the New Homes Bonus

In the draft budget for 2012/13, the Conservative run Huntingdonshire District Council still doesn't get the reason for the New Homes Bonus (NHB). In the draft budget it says:

Members have expressed interest in the use of the Bonus. It is not ring-fenced for specific communities but there is ample evidence within this report that it will be used to enable the protection of services and for in investment in key growth areas.

The Government that pays the New Homes Bonus informs the public that HDC should be consulting with the communities which are accepting development on how the money should be spent. Yet HDC simply ignore this and carry on its merry way.

An Example:
Conservative controlled Wychavon District Council has been able to do a consultation and have a written policy toward their New Homes Bonus money. They even have loads of Parish Councils.

In the Wychavon policy it says:

(ii) Development in towns and villages
(a) Development within a Town or Parish area
Where development takes place in Droitwich Spa, Evesham, Pershore or the rural areas of the district, the Council will normally award up to 40% of the NHB accruing to be reinvested in the local community. This reward will not be ringfenced to any particular use but it must deliver ‘added value’ to the local community and area and where possible, benefit those communities close to any new development.
(b) Significant developments adjacent to towns
It is likely that some of the urban extensions to the three towns, which may be constructed over the next few years, may be delivered outside the administrative boundary of the town whilst clearly serving the growth of the urban area and reliant of amenities and services in the urban area.
The Council may determine that the NHB payments to be reinvested in local communities, in circumstances where it is serving urban growth, is split between the town and the rural parish(es) accommodating the urban growth. Of the allocation in (a) above, the split will normally be 80% to the town and 20% to the Parish.

In Wychavon up to 40% of New Homes Bonus money can go to the local community accepting this development. Not exactly what I would like to see. But it does go some way to meeting the needs of the Towns accepting developments.

The Wychavon NHB policy goes on:

9. Procedure for payment
1. The Council’s Executive Board will determine and authorise the release of any payments under the NHB scheme. The Council will publish on its website an annual statement of the NHB monies attributable to each town or parish area. Payments will generally be held until there is a commitment to spend the monies.

In a recent FOI request I was informed HDC cannot work out the New Homes Bonus attributable to St Neots. Yet Conservative run Wychavon will be doing so!

Before I get too carried away, there are difference between Wychavon DC and Huntingdonshire DC. These are:

Population: W=117,000 / H=167,300
Area: W=256.2 sq mi / H=352.3 sq mi
Density: W=456.7/sq mi / H=474.9/sq mi
Council Tax proposed for 2012/13: W= £108.44 (Zero increase) H=£127.17 (2.5% increase)

Even with a population density slightly lower, Conservative run Wychavon DC has a policy on New Homes Bonus and a lower Council Tax rate which isn't rising. In Huntingdonshire, we have a Conservative run Council with no real policy on New Homes Bonus, apart from denying its intended use, and is looking to put up the Council Tax.

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