Grantham Journal column: Why the Government’s New Homes Bonus is so very unfair to us

Labour SKDC Councillor Charmaine Morgan

Labour SKDC Councillor Charmaine Morgan

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In its new budgetary proposals for local authorities, the Government is continuing its plans to cut direct funding. In future, South Kesteven District Council will be largely dependent upon locally raised council tax payments and the Government’s New Homes Bonus, which provides multiple Council Tax payments from the Government to SKDC for every new house built.

The term ‘Bonus’ being misleading as the so called ‘bonus’ only comes if new homes are built and is merely replacing income the local authority would have once received.

Not only is this proposal unfair, because local authorities in areas with relatively low housing value, such as our district will receive less income than those in more affluent areas, but the New Homes Bonus puts huge pressure on the council to provide a continuous supply of land for housing development on an ongoing basis, regardless of the impact on existing local communities. Councils can identify land to be made available for development but only fully control development paid for by public funding and the Government is not providing adequate funds to either meet housing demand or the supporting infrastructure. Policies should at least ensure the most appropriate and efficient use of land once a planning decision has been made.

Concerns regarding funding proposals have been flagged by the Local Government Association and other bodies. In response, the Government has provided an additional fund to rural authorities. However welcome, the fund fails to meet the increasing level of demand for services and higher cost of providing those services in a rural area.

The New Homes Bonus and high dependency on local Council Tax remain. Council Tax increases are not means tested and so hit lower income households more. For the present increases will be capped and are moderate. This means householders are protected for now but the funding for services we need are squeezed.

A range of housing is required to support the differing needs of members of the community. How the housing is provided is crucial to the future of our district.

Poor planning may have an irreversible detrimental impact. Current proposals, yet to be approved, will see significant development on the edge of Grantham which many argue will significantly increase traffic volumes.

At present SKDC councillors are considering proposals for our Local Plan which will play a key role in future planning decisions, It is likely to be available for public consultation this September.

It is vital that all voices are heard as the Local Plan is formed and is preferable that all future major development takes the new plan into consideration.