John Field’s Report to Gipping Valley: January 2016

Local Government Financial News

The County and District now know their settlements for the next four years.  Both have suffered rather more than they expected.  The County will receive £4 million more next year than it estimated, then £4, £6 & £8 million less over the next three years.  Overall, the reduction from now will be £41.9 million by 2019/20.  The estimate is that inflation will cost an additional £8 million and “demographic change” £5.2 million per year, which all makes it difficult or impossible to maintain services for the vulnerable and the rest of us.

I will report the proposed budget actions when the administration’s reveals its revised proposals.

The District core budget will lose £730k Government grant next year and another £1 million over the next three years.  This will be replaced from the £2.6 million New Homes Bonus, which will drop to about £1.8 million over the period.  There will still be £8.4 million of Transformation Funds available for investment in 2016/17.

The Government ruling that rents must no longer rise by CPI plus 1% but now must fall by 1% in cash terms will challenge the District’s housing revenue account.  This change is good for residents but takes a substantial sum from the finance for continued building of new and replacement council houses.

The proceeds from right to buy sales can form 30% of the cost of replacement homes but the remaining 70% must come from surplus rent income, grants that we may win from Government and borrowing. The rent reductions make a hole in the total and a major checking exercise is in progress.

Devolution

It is a bit hard to get excited by devolution.  Does it matter to you?  Will you get better and more efficient services?   Does it matter who rules you as long as they take notice of your views and are good at it?

The Enabling Bill is certainly progressing through Parliament with the last minute addition of some significant powers to allow the Government to overcome resistance from local authorities.  We will be examining progress in Scrutiny on the 10th February asking, among other things:    Why is it important that Suffolk pursues devolution?  What are the advantages, what are the potential benefits to the people of Suffolk, and what does it seek to achieve in terms of outcomes?

Broadband

The plan for the next nine months includes Chapel Lane, Great Blakenham, 80 premises, Claydon Business Park, 75 which leaves a few remote villages like my home in Baylham.

Houses in Bramford

Development of 130 houses north of Acton Road has received outline planning permission.  Infrastructure development gets £79k for pre-school, £962k for education, £28k for libraries and £66k for highways.  Open space and social infrastructure should receive £725k much of which will go to the village.  However,  we must remember a lot can change even at this stage.

Houses in Great Blakenham

There is a scheme proposed to develop the area of Great Blakenham between Chequers Rise and the allotments and by the time you read this a public exhibition will have been held.   Yet another large development proposed in a village that has expanded dramatically and is feeling the strain.

The contributions for infrastructure to support such a development would be similar to that above except that the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is likely to be operational by the time the developer makes a planning application.  That would provide a certain, non-negotiable sum, which would depend on the floor area of the houses and would exclude any “affordable” dwellings.  At some £10k per house, there would be perhaps £1,000k available.

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