FIRST-TIME buyers are being given a helping hand to get on the property ladder thanks to Northumberland County Council.
The authority is one of five involved in Local Lend a Hand, a pilot scheme being administered by Lloyds TSB.
It will see councils helping people with their deposit to get on the ladder.
And the council has received a steady stream of inquiries about the new scheme since it was announced.
Coun Jeff Reid, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “This is one of a number of ways that we will deliver our strategic objectives on affordable housing. Already we have had a number of inquiries from the public, which is really pleasing. We will be working through the details and take a report back to the Members for consideration.”
The scheme still requires a deposit from potential purchasers of a minimum of 5 per cent with the local authority contributing up to 20 per cent.
Those applying must qualify for a mortgage under Lloyds TSB’s terms and conditions and meet the criteria set by the local authority which is being determined.
Northumberland has indicated a £3million contribution to the scheme which would provide, for example, 150 deposits of £20,000. The Council will review progress of the scheme later in the year.
The detail of the administration of the scheme is currently being worked through but will be developed in line with the council’s strategic housing.
In the meantime anyone interested in participating in the scheme should contact customer services.
However the scheme has come under heavy criticism from one of the council’s own members.
Councillor Steven Bridgett who represents Rothbury and Coquetdale has described the scheme as ‘disturbing’.
He said: “I cannot begin to list how many things worry me about this scheme, and I’m sure alarm bells will be ringing for many taxpayers as well. It is my understanding that one of the main factors that got the world’s economies into such a mess was giving mortgages to people who cannot afford to make payments on them. Have we learned nothing in the last 3 years? I would ask the officers and councillors in support of this scheme if it is such a good idea, why not put up your own money instead of risking the taxpayers.
“Northumberland County Council cannot even meet its statutory requirements at present, such as bringing our roads up to a decent standard. If we have £3million to spend on a scheme like this why have we not invested it in improving our road infrastructure – or better still why do we not use the money to actually build some affordable and social housing. I would imagine this also to be quite a bitter pill for many of our staff who are being made redundant in the £45million cuts the council is implementing in the new financial year.”