Cheshire East is 'free to decide how to spend' the £35.4m New Homes Bonus

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As reported on wilmslow.co.uk earlier this week, a local campaign group has accused Cheshire East Council of keeping quiet about millions of pounds they have received from the New Homes Bonus.

Residents of Wilmslow claim the Council has kept the money itself as extra income, rather than sharing it with local communities. They are now putting pressure on CEC to implement a consultation process so they can have some say in how the money is spent at a local level.

Cheshire East Council has confirmed that since 2011 they have received £35.4m in New Homes Bonus which they have used to support frontline services across the borough.

A spokesperson for Cheshire East Council, said: "New Homes Bonus is a grant paid by central government that forms part of the council's core funding.

"Government guidance states that local authorities are free to decide how to spend it as they are in the best position to make decisions about local priorities.

"The total amount of New Homes Bonus received to date is £35.4m of which approximately £3m arises from new homes built in Wilmslow, Handforth and Alderley Edge."

Since 2011 Cheshire East Council has received £2m from new homes built in Wilmslow, £550,000 from new homes built in Handforth and £450,000 from new homes built in Alderley Edge.

The spokesperson added "Since it was introduced in 2011, the grant has been used to support frontline services across the borough, benefiting all Cheshire East residents.

"In that six-year period the council has also invested approaching £20m in the Wilmslow and Alderley Edge area in projects such as the Alderley Edge bypass, major repairs at Wilmslow High school, refurbishment of Wilmslow leisure centre and library, provision of play areas and improving road safety.

"The council consults on its budget proposals every year. This includes engagement with town and parish councils about budget proposals. Details of estimated general and specific grants are set out in full in the pre-budget consultation and then the budget report approved each February.

"This year, the council will be consulting on a specific proposal to allocate a proportion of New Homes Bonus for community priorities. Draft proposals will be issued for consultation in November. If approved, the funding will be allocated from 2018/19."

Tags:
Cheshire East Council, New Homes Bonus, Residents of Wilmslow
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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Mark Goldsmith
Friday 20th October 2017 at 1:24 pm
This is not how New Homes Bonus was instigated though.

"New Homes Bonus funding can be used however communities see fit to improve their local area - and I would urge all councils expecting to receive funding to speak to their residents about how they would like to see it spent locally."

Grant Shapps, Housing Minister, 11 October 2011

http://bit.ly/2xTZ0r2


Cheshire East never made any consultation with Wilmslow though. Instead they kept quiet and regarded this windfall as general income.

The latest annual Cheshire East budget consultation is 178 pages long and contains 2 small paragraphs about NHB. Both of these comment about the level of funding and refer to NHB as general income not localised spending. This budget consultation also takes no account of which communities raised the NHB money nor how they would like it spent in their locality.

As for "investing" £20m in Wilmsow, well let's look at that statement too. The Alderley Edge bypass opened in 2010, before NHB was even introduced. Cheshire East contributed £3.6m of the £52m bill, so their involvement was pretty minor. Since 2011, the people of Wilmslow have provided roughly £154m in Council Tax to Cheshire East (14,000 households x £1,750 average council tax x 6 years), which does not include any business rates either. Therefore, £20m is not much of a return for all that money, is it?

Once again, Cheshire East is trying to spin their way out of things. That they refuse to admit fault, even when presented with overwhelming evidence continues to disappoint. It seems regardless of who is running the council, this attitude never changes.

However, we welcome their acknowledgement that they are now at least considering their duty towards allocating the money Wilmslow is due. Both I and my colleagues at Residents of Wilmslow will continue to hold Cheshire East accountable on this issue as we fight for what is best for our town.


Cllr Mark Goldsmith, Residents of Wilmslow
Jackie Pass
Friday 20th October 2017 at 1:54 pm
"Government guidance states that local authorities are free to decide how to spend it as they are in the best position to make decisions about local priorities".

Cheshire East know about local priorities? They know about their own pet projects: they know about developer's priorities: ...but resident's priorities?

So what we have is a situation where Cheshire East have trousered the lot and as far as I can see they have also trousered largely amounts of S106 monies in addition.

Meanwhile, I am still waiting for a replacement green bin which got tipped into the truck, through no fault of mine, nearly six weeks ago.
Richard Bullock
Friday 20th October 2017 at 2:11 pm
Interesting that CEC are saying that the grant was introduced in 2011 and yet somehow some of it was spent on the Alderley Edge bypass which opened to traffic in 2010?
Nick Jones
Friday 20th October 2017 at 2:21 pm
From 2011 ... Then how was this concealed within the accounts ?? Parking fines revenue ??? certainly not declared as it should have been.... Why the secrecy ??

And there better not even be a suggestion of a council tax rise following this latest revelation of fiscal wrong doing !
Toni Fox
Friday 20th October 2017 at 2:36 pm
"Government guidance states that local authorities are free to decide how to spend it as they are in the best position to make decisions about local priorities."

What the Council spokesperson has failed to say is that Government guidance also states:

"Local authorities are expected to engage with their local community to decide how the money is spent so residents feel the direct benefits of growth."

I do not believe that this one paragraph -

"New Homes Bonus funding is provided to the Council based on the net increase in properties and affordable homes. The scheme is now coming into the final year of a six year rolling programme with unring-fenced funding of £9.2m expected for 2016/17. Beyond 2016/17, the Government has launched a review of the scheme and a significant reduction in allocation is expected from 2018/19."

- in a pre-budget report document, that received a nigligible response, engages and consults with local residents, in accordance with Government advice on how they think this money should be spent, do you?

Why not just say sorry, under the previous leadership we have found we made a(nother) mistake, we are going to put it right?

Whilst I applaud the efforts being made by the new leadership to sort out the tangled web of past misdemeanours I would suggest that if this Conservative led Council wants to re-establish any trust in it from either its residents, or opposition Party members, this is not the way to do it.

Councillor Toni Fox - Independent
Dean Row Ward - Wilmslow

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