The Saffron Walden Reporter published an excellent article about how the central government is forcing district councils to build more new housing to support its national home-building agenda. Councils are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Central government core funding is being reduced, so district councils have 3 options:
- Cut costs
- Reduce services
- Replace the lost funding with new grants that the government is paying for each new house built, through the New Homes Bonus scheme
Many have already done 1. And so it is really a balancing act between 2 and 3.
The problem for Uttlesford is that the UDC Cabinet have thrown themselves headlong into building 1,000s of new homes without a strategy for how to deal with the knock on effects of highways, education and the environment. Because of this, many unsuitable sites have been proposed and so residents are up in arms.
From the Reporter article, Saffron Walden Town Councillor Mike Hibbs says:
“The council is being bribed to build houses by central government and we need to say this is not the right way to go about delivering housing.”
From the same article:
Uttlesford’s portfolio holder for finance Cllr Robert Chambers agreed that the Government was effectively forcing the council’s hand. “We don’t have any choice but to build houses. This is what the Government’s agenda is, and if, as they hope, the economy does take a turn for the better, I fear we may see even more growth.”
Interesting comments from the Conservative UDC Cabinet member, who is also the County Councillor for Saffron Walden. Instead of coming up with ideas and strategies to deal with the problem he his shrugging his shoulders and hoping for a continued recession. The main problem is that party-whipping means that the UDC Cabinet seems to be toeing a party line, rather than an agenda that meets existing residents’ wishes. That is why Saffron Walden residents intend to stand their own candidate, John Lodge, at the upcoming county council election.