St Neots residents call for debate on how New Homes Bonus is spent
RESIDENTS of St Neots are calling for a greater say on how hundreds of thousands of pounds from the Government’s New Homes Bonus is spent.
District councillor Steve van de Kerkhove, who represents Eynesbury ward, accused Huntingdonshire District Council of “making a mockery” of the scheme and “robbing the people of St Neots of extra money they are entitled to” after absorbing the majority of new housing development in the district at Love’s Farm.
He added that he would do everything in his power to stop any further development in St Neots until the people of the town started to see some benefits from the scheme.
But HDC says the money is for the benefit of the whole district and goes only some way towards making up for lost grant income.
The Government introduced the New Homes Bonus in 2011 to provide incentives for encouraging much-needed additional housing.
Under the first payment in April 2011, HDC received �832,000 for houses built between autumn 2009 and autumn 2010, some of them for social landlord Bedford Pilgrims Housing Association at Love’s Farm, St Neots.
At the time Housing Minister Grant Shapps said it was “essential that councils engage with their local community to decide how the money is spent, so residents feel the direct benefits of growth” but, according to Cllr van de Kerkhove, the town has not seen a single penny nor been consulted.
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He told The Hunts Post: “Since this scheme was introduced there has been no consultation with community groups and no intention of doing so.
“This is extra money HDC should be spending on St Neots over and above what they should be doing anyway.”
Cllr van de Kerkhove has support from St Neots Conservative county and district councillor Cllr Bob Farrer, who said: “It seems to me that the bulk of the New Homes Bonus should go towards St Neots” as well as town councillors Adrian Usher and Carl Jones, who represents Love’s Farm.
Cllr Jones added: “I think the consultation process should have come down to town councils and community groups as it has done in other councils around the country. The people in St Neots have had no say.”
But officials at HDC challenged the view that it was ‘new’ money, saying it merely plugged a budgetary shortfall from cuts to other funding.
They also stressed that decisions about how money should be spent were made by elected representatives.
Terry Parker, managing director of resources at HDC, told The Hunts Post: “If it were extra money, we’d have more money this year than we had last – which we don’t.”
A spokesman from the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “It is up to councils to decide how the New Homes Bonus payments are spent in their area, and we would expect them to work closely with local residents when making decisions.”