Posts Tagged 'Green Party'

£10 million to spend on our communities

Our Council has the funds to spend in communities – so why isn’t it spent?

Central government gives district councils a New Homes Bonus* as an incentive to grant housing planning permissions, payable when the homes are built.  Since the start of the scheme in 2011 Mid Suffolk District Council has received just over £9 million.  It has spent very little of this and, when combined with recent budget underspends, means the Council has a cash reserve that is expected to rise to £10.47 million by the end of 2017/18.

The Green Group of councillors at Mid Suffolk are urging the Council to create a New Homes Bonus fund, initially £400,000, to which communities that have had housing growth can apply.  Housing growth is happening now and communities must be given the funds to improve their infrastructure to deal with this.

Leader of the Green Group, Councillor Andrew Stringer said “each year we put forward proposals on how to improve quality of life for our residents and this is one such proposal.  Our communities need our support as they get more and more housing growth.”

Many communities are seeing new housing developments and often need improved infrastructure (foot/cycle paths, roads, schools, health provision) alongside this – yet little or no funding is forthcoming.

Villages are being asked to improve their communities themselves yet are not given the budgets to deal with this.

Across England, different councils have different approaches.  In South Lakeland in Cumbria 40% of the New Homes Bonus is used in communities where development occurs and the rest of the fund is used by the council to build their own housing.  In Wychavon in Worcestershire, 40% of the fund from years 4 and 5 of funding is provided to local communities.  South Northamptonshire allocates 30% for parishes and towns that have seen growth and 10% for parish and voluntary group projects.

District Councillor Rachel Eburne said “it is vital that these funds are used.  This is not our money – it belongs to the residents of Mid Suffolk and we should be looking at best practice across the country on how this money can be spent in our communities for best effect.”

 

Notes:

*New Homes Bonus

New Homes Bonus is payable by Government on an annual basis with an amount paid for every new home built or empty home brought back into use.  It was set up to encourage house building by incentivising councils for each planning permission granted.  However it was also delivered in conjunction with Government reducing Revenue Support Grants to local government.

For each home, “payments are made on matching the average national council tax band of the unit built or brought back into use”(1) with an extra £350 if the home is affordable are paid each year.  Of the sum payable, 80% is paid to Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) and 20% to Suffolk County Council.  This scheme started in 2011/12 and currently the bonus is paid every year for five years.  Since 2011/12, MSDC has received just over £9 million and is due to receive a further £2.027 million in 2017/18.

If a new house is built today, based on the national average of Band D council tax of £1,530 for 2016/17,  Mid Suffolk will receive approximately £6,120 over the next five years – so for 100 homes built, £612,000.  For every affordable house built they will receive an additional £1,750 over the next five years.

MSDC has been building up a so-called “Transformation Fund” which currently stands at £9.2 million and this is primarily funded from the New Homes Bonus.

In many other councils, New Homes Bonus is used as a fund to help communities to mitigate the impact of development in their area – that is, if a community has had development in their area (from which the district council has benefitted by receiving New Homes Bonus) they can apply for funds for projects that deal with impact of more housing.

Examples are:

Chichester District Council – £250,000 per annum provided to communities

http://www.chichester.gov.uk/newhomesbonus

Wychavon District Council – 40% of the New Homes Bonus from years 4 and 5 is provided to communities

http://www.wychavon.gov.uk/documents/10586/157693/New%20Homes%20Bonus%20Protocol%20April%202014.pdf

Bromsgrove District Council – communities that have had new housing built can apply for grants

http://www.bromsgrove.gov.uk/business/tax,-funding-finance/grants-funding/new-homes-bonus-(nhb)-community-grants-scheme.aspx

South Lakeland District Council – uses 40% of funds for local use and the rest for housing in general

http://www.southlakeland.gov.uk/your-neighbourhood/grants/new-homes-bonus/

South Northamptonshire allocates 30% for parishes and towns that have seen growth and 10% for parish and voluntary group projects.

http://www.southnorthants.gov.uk/1037.htm#

(1) See Government guidelines, rates and research briefing:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/486102/New_Homes_Bonus_-_instructions_for_using_the_calculator.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/council-tax-levels-set-by-local-authorities-in-england-2016-to-2017

http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN05724

 

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After years of promises, Haughley Green finally gets broadband

As of today (17th October 2016) residents of Haughley Green can order superfast fibre broadband.  A new cabinet has been installed in the village and after six long years of promises we will finally be able to get a decent broadband service.

Many properties in the village cannot get landline based broadband at all and for others the speed is around 0.5mgb – barely enough to use email.

Local residents and councillors (myself and County Councillor, Andrew Stringer) have been campaigning for over six years fot this to happen.  We have attended conferences, held public meetings, lobbied councils, door-stopped BT, asked questions of MPs, conducted surveys and finally worked with Suffolk County Council’s Better Broadband team to get a service for our area.

Thank you to everyone who has persevered.

Rail Crossing Closures Threat

Haughley Green level crossingOnce again, rail crossings in our area are threatened with closure.  Three immediately around Haughley and Wetherden are at risk – two on the Ipswich to Bury line  (on the Haughley Green to Haughley footpath and at Mutton Hall) and one on the Norwich line (at the Leggetts footpath just north of Haughley Green).  A public consultation will soon be open so please register your views.  From 14th June until 5th July you can go online at www.networkrail.co.uk/anglialevelcrossing or email anglialevelcrossings@networkrail.co.uk or phone 03457 11 41 41.  A consultation event is being held in Stowmarket at the Community Centre IP14 2BD on Tuesday 14th June from 3pm to 8pm.  The local press have been covering this (read here) and also a local pressure group (www.suffolkcrossings.co.uk ) but it is important that as many of you as possible have your say.

 

Local Post Office to be re-housed – good news or bad?

2071174_ourlogo_ENGLISH_COLOUR_LOGO_REF3_2The Post Office has just issued a consultation on closing Elmswell Post Office (next to the Co-op) and moving it into the Pharmacy – ie: north of the railway line.  The corporate line is that this is good news, opening hours will be slightly longer (by 30 minutes), it won’t be shut for lunch, with the only difference in servcies that you won’t be able to buy Premium Bonds nor on the spot travel insurance.  However – previous local experience has shown that a new service may be far from better.  In Woolpit, where the Post Office has moved from it’s own building to a counter within the Co-op, villagers complain of longer (and confusing) queues, lack of privacy and simply the fact that two good village services have been squashed into one.

At Elmswell the Post Office will now be in the Pharmacy which is probably not frequented as often as the Co-op is.  It may also suffer from the same problems currently happening in Woolpit.  The change is expected to happen in October or November this year.  Ultimately if it doesn’t work – does Elmswell lose a Post Office altogether?

The consultation has just opened and you can access it via www.postofficeviews.co.uk and follow the links.  Elmswell’s number is 063112.  If this is important to you, please take part in the consultation before it closes on 18 August 2015.

2015 Elections – re-elected uncontested

Following the closure of nominations for the 2015 Mid Suffolk District Council elections, as no other candidate has stood against me I have been re-elected uncontested.  I am very appreciative of the support I have received from the communities of Haughley and Wetherden to date and hope to continue to serve residents well.  I will continue to raise any concerns and support local issues that residents have.

Local banking for the public interest

Wouldn’t it be good to have a network of truly local banks that acted in the public interest, served local communities and helped small businesses?  The New Economics Foundation (www.neweconomics.org) has just produced a report showing how this can be done – by building on the current level of public ownership of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and transforming it into a network of local, publicly accountable banks.  This type of approach already exists in countries such as Germany and Switzerland but here, in the UK, Government still seems to think that big is best.  I  will be asking David Ruffley what is being done on this and hope national politicians read this report and have the common sense to act on it before selling RBS off.

Budgets and transparency

Mid Suffolk District Council’s  budget for 2015/16 is due to be approved at the Council meeting at the end of February.  The core budget (of approximately £10 million) is very similar to last year – and the year before.  However – there is an additional £2 million, plus over £3 million underspent from previous years, allocated to “delivery plan projects”.  This is money for projects intended to “transform” how the Council works and make the Council more sustainable – yet there is no clear overall plan of how this money will be spent and therefore very little transparency or accountability to the public.

In addition the Council is asking councillors to agree potential borrowing of £25 million for future Council projects – again with no detail.

I would like to see far greater transparency and accountability in explaining the Council’s budgets to the general public – and getting the public’s opinion on how the money should be spent.


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