When there is any proposed significant legislative change, any competent public body or business will undertake an analysis of the implications and determine what action it needs to take.
When the Conservative-led government announced its intention to cut specific funds to local authorities next year – this is in addition to the big cuts in revenue support and other grants – and redistribute them through a scheme called the New Homes Bonus, I undertook a provisional calculation which showed that Sheffield City Council was set to lose millions each year.
I was astonished at the time that the council was making no strong representations about this. As we’ve learned since, Coun Scriven is simply unwilling to stand up for Sheffield when it comes to government decisions which adversely affect the city.
I made a Freedom of Information request last October to the council asking about the potential financial impact of the New Homes Bonus.
I was told: “No analysis has as yet been undertaken on the likely impact that the New Homes Bonus will have on the City, consequently we are not in a position to answer your questions.” Given the scale of the potential, I was staggered.
Then, when the government announced the New Homes Bonus allocations, I again made an FoI request about the financial implications. Again, I was told that no estimates had been made.
The House Builders’ Federation reports that Sheffield Council could lose as much as £10 million each year by 2017 as the scheme transfers millions to better-off areas in the south-east. It predicts that Sheffield will lose £18.6m over the next six years.
Councils who miss out on bonus payments will be doubly penalised because in future the scheme will be funded by cutting authorities’ core grants.
Penny Baker, Sheffield City Council’s Liberal Democrat Cabinet Member for Housing complacently responded: “We want to avoid making bleak speculations and assumptions about what the future holds.”
Either she has an analysis of the implications for Sheffield and is covering it up, or she is demonstrating breathtaking incompetence in her performance on behalf of the city and its residents.
Councillors should call for a full report on the financial implications for the city of the New Homes Bonus and on actions which could be taken to mitigate the effect.
Howard A Knight, S4