Political leaders’ concern over funding reductions

Crawley leader Peter Lamb

Crawley leader Peter Lamb

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Political leaders have criticised plans which will leave all but one district council in West Sussex financially worse-off in 2017.

New Homes Bonus payments to councils nationwide by the Government will reduce by £240million in 2017/18, with the funds diverted to adult social care.

The plan, along with other changes to the way the housebuilding incentive is calculated, will see West Sussex councils receive up to 27 per cent less.

Adur District Council leader Neil Parkin, whose authority will be hardest hit, said: “I’m particularly disappointed they are choosing to fund the social care crisis by taking money off district councils and the New Homes Bonus.

“I will be screaming about the reduction and before it was announced I fired the warning shots across the MP.”

Horsham District Council is the only district council in the county expected to see an increase in New Homes Bonus, according to figures provided by Crawley Borough Council leader Peter Lamb.

A HDC spokesman said the expected 9.49 per cent increase reflected the ‘sheer increase in volume of new homes being built in the district’.

But the outlook was bleaker for Crawley, with the borough’s anticipated reduction of 24.29 per cent the second highest drop in the county.

Mr Lamb said the Labour-controlled authority had been ‘repeatedly harder hit’ than its neighbours over the last six years.

He said the council had been penalised because of the changes – despite taking proactive steps to develop available land.

The reduction in New Homes Bonus represents around £500,000 – but Mr Lamb said the council would not make kneejerk reactions.

Mr Lamb’s figures show Crawley would experience the largest reduction (6.44 per cent) in overall spending power, taking into account the wider provisional local government settlement.

The funding changes have raised concerns on a national level.

The District Councils’ Network (DCN), the collective voice for local authorities across England, will exploring the potential for transitional measures to help soften the blow.

Arun District Council leader Gill Brown acts as planning spokesman for the DCN.

In addition to the £240million reduction, she said New Homes Bonus will be paid over five years in 2017/18, instead of the current six. This will reduce to four years in the following year.

Councils will also need to achieve housing growth of more than 0.4 per cent before they receive New Homes Bonus funding.

She said: “The DCN is very concerned about the proposal to review the baseline in future to reflect significant and unexpected growth.

“The consultation on the provisional settlement asks for views on whether there should be any transitional measures for local authorities to deal with these changes.

“The DCN will be actively exploring this route to set out its concerns in relation to the new baseline rate in particular and will be offering proposals to mitigate the impact on district councils. We will also be involving MPs as part of co-ordinated district response.”

EXPECTED CHANGE IN NEW HOMES BONUS:

Adur: -27.65 per cent

Arun: -8.37 per cent

Chichester: -16.1 per cent

Crawley: -24.29 per cent

Horsham: +9.49 per cent

Mid Sussex: -0.47 per cent

Worthing: -13.13 per cent

West Sussex County Council: -6.35 per cent