PLANS for Bromsgrove District Council to offer 20 per cent of New Homes Bonus payments in the 2015/16 budget for community projects have been branded ‘an insult’.
The calls came from campaigners as a the cross-party New Homes Bonus Working Group unveiled its recommendation at the Council House on Monday (December 1).
Prior to this year, the district council had used the cash it received for new homes to plug a gap in funding caused by central Government cuts.
But campaigners claimed it should be spent on those areas affected by the new development and a petition signed by 1,429 people was handed in to members.
Following that, the working group was set up to discuss the issue and, taking on board comments from 160 people who had responded to a consultation, they were tasked with coming up with a recommendation.
The councils receives £1,455 for each new home built and an extra £350 for every one which is affordable.
Bromsgrove District Council takes 80 per cent of that, with the county council getting 20.
The latest 12 months worth of New Homes Bonus payments will total £420,152 and it is a fifth of that year’s cash – some £84,000 – that will be put towards community projects.
A community grants panel, made up of members from all parties on Bromsgrove District Council, will be set up to evaluate applications for that cash. Those applying for the one-off capital payment must provide evidence that development has impacted on their communities and prove their project is sustainable. Those applying for larger amounts would need to submit a proper business case in order to obtain the cash.
Among those who can apply are not-for-profit groups, parish councils and residents’ groups.
During a lively evening at the council house, which was attended by almost 40 people, campaigners questioned why just a fifth of the cash generated by new development had been offered for community projects, why it was not going directly to affected areas and why it was only one year’s worth of the NHB. So far, since the New Homes Bonus was introduced in 2011/12, £1.3million has been generated for Bromsgrove.
Coun Mike Webb defended the recommendation, saying using the cash to plug funding gaps meant frontline services had not been cut.
And it was argued that most people across the district were affected by many of the developments and taking this approach meant it would be distributed more fairly to areas.
But Peter Rowbottom, the lead petitioner behind the NHB campaign, said it was an insult to communities across the district affected by new housing development.
He added that, despite the committee claiming to pass on 20 per cent of the 2015/16 funds, it was – in reality – only passing on six per cent of the total £1.3million it would receive in total.
Coun Steve Colella, who has also campaigned to get the NHB spent on communities affected by development, said: “What a total disgrace and utter lack of regard for the people of Bromsgrove.
“Over 40 volunteers, parish councillors, community champions and charities from the district’s outlying parished area came to hopefully hear how Government funding aimed at communities affected by development would benefit their communities.
“Instead what they had was a derisory £84,000 to be shared across effectively half the population of Bromsgrove.
“What a disgrace.
“These people give their time freely and willingly to look after and to contribute to their local communities.
“To come here and to be insulted was one of the worst displays of the district’s Tory-led administration I’ve ever seen.”
After taking on the views expressed at Monday’s meeting, the working group will update the recommendations so they can go before the council’s cabinet in January.
They, if agreed, would then go before the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee and full council in February.
HERE IS the full statement from lead petitioner Peter Rowbottom, following Monday’s meeting:
The proposal announced at the public forum tonight by the New Homes Bonus Working Party is an insult to communities across the district affected by new housing development.
Despite the committee claiming it was passing on some 20 per cent of the total New Homes Bonus money it is receiving from Central Government for 2015/16, in reality because the council also receives previous years’ payments cumulatively, it is proposing to pass on the equivalent of only six per cent out of a total £1.3million it will receive for next year alone.
As this amounts to a proposed £84,000 across the entire district, this will mean villages affected by housing such as Hagley, Clent, Belbroughton, Alvechurch, Barnt Green, Catshill and Wythall may only end up with as little as a couple of thousand pounds each.
As it also appears that the committee will not use the £647,000 surplus from 2013/14 to make up for failing to pass on any New Homes Bonus money at all for the first four years of the national scheme, villages across the district who have had new homes built between 2010 and 2013 have lost out forever on tens of thousands of pounds that could have been spent on community centres, village halls, scouts and guides groups and local sports clubs.
The committee would only commit to looking at passing on money in the future on a year by year basis.
It is clear that the ruling Conservative Group at council, who have a majority on this committee, do not care about communities across the district, whether it be local facilities or community groups themselves.
It is also clear that the intervention of Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid, at my request, has been totally ineffective.
I hope communities across the district will remember how little it appears the current Conservative Group cares about the people they are elected to serve, when the district council elections are held in May.