Call for housing bonus to be spent in communities

Maureen Shepherd, of Warkworth Parish Council.
Maureen Shepherd, of Warkworth Parish Council.

A call has been made for the county council to spend cash received for new homes in communities, amid claims it is using the bonus to fill ‘the black hole in its finances’.

Local authorities are entitled to an extra payment of six years-worth of council tax from the Government for every new home built, with Northumberland County Council set to receive £6.6million in the current financial year.

Government guidance suggests that local authorities consult with communities on the spending of those funds.

Lib Dem campaigner Julie Pörksen, who stood in the Berwick constituency in last May’s general election, said: “Many of our local communities, such as Warkworth, Amble and Morpeth, are facing unprecedented and unsustainable housing growth, taking place contrary to local neighbourhood plans.

“Section 106 agreements exist, but are not enough to meet community needs.

“Investment in local infrastructure, like roads and parking, and local services, such as schools and dentists, is not sufficient to serve current levels of house building.

“By not asking local communities for input on spending plans, I can only assume that Northumberland County Council is just looking to maximise the new homes bonus to fill the black hole in its finances.”

The extra revenue generated by new house building in Warkworth is calculated to be about £1million over the next six years, while concerns about the likes of roads and parking have been raised during recent planning applications.

Coun Maureen Shepherd, of Warkworth Parish Council, said: “Northumberland County Council is getting a lot of extra money from all the new houses built in Warkworth.

“As a local community, we haven’t been consulted on how these funds might be used best to the benefit of Warkworth and our local area.

“Government guidance does say that there should be consultation with local communities and we are asking the council to consult with us in Warkworth before they decide how the money should be spent.”

A county council spokesman said: “The council uses the grant to protect front-line service delivery across the county. The grant is an integral part of the council’s medium-term financial plan.”