Contested community funding to be spent on most deprived areas

Sheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Town Hall

Sheffield City Council are planning to use most of a £1.1m pot of money to ‘close the gap between the richer and poorer parts of the city’, after months of rows over how it should be spent.

They are proposing to use 90 percent of the money on the most deprived areas of the city, and the remaining 10 percent on the wards in which development took place.

In the report, Dawn Shaw, head of community services, said: “The entirety of the neighbourhood portion could be retained in the ward where the development has taken place but this would remove the opportunity to close the gap between the richer and poorer parts of the city.”

The funding comes from the Community Infrastructure Levy, which is a charge on all new developments including housing, shops, commercial buildings and hotels.

The money is used to provide infrastructure - such as play equipment or highway improvements - to support new developments and benefit residents.

The council began charging CIL in 2015 and has since built up a pot of money. Eighty percent is spent on major citywide projects such as Don Valley flood defences and improvements to Penistone Road.

These plans refer to the remaining £1.1m ‘neighbourhood’ portion. 

Traditionally, the money is spent on the area in which the development took place.

But Labour councillors said there is a ‘strong moral argument’ to spend the money across the city on the most deprived areas. 

Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and development, said: "At present, wealthy parts of the city receive far more CIL, but some of the city’s least affluent areas receive nothing at all, because land values are lower.

“In addition, developers are often not required to pay CIL if wishing to develop in areas of greatest deprivation. This is a good way to kick-start needed development, but it means some areas of our city lose out, whilst the wealthiest parts continue to acquire more.

“There is a strong moral argument for allowing CIL money to be spent more widely, so that it benefits all of Sheffield.”

During a consultation period, in which 312 people responded, nearly half of respondents were critical of the plans to spend all the money on deprived areas and said it would ‘ take money away’ from areas where development had taken place. 

One person said: “To spend the CIL in another ward is morally bankrupt. It is not a tax to be used for city-wide schemes.”

Another said: “The CIL should stay within the area that it was levied. Anything else is day light robbery.”

Opposition councillors were also against the proposal to spread the money across the city.

Green City ward councillor Douglas Johnson said: “This money is meant to benefit residents affected by big building developments.

“They have to put up with construction vehicles, noise and mud; parking obstructions and an increase in traffic; the loss of green space and open space; the loss of natural habitats, birds, plants and wildlife; restricted pavements and roads; increased anti-social behaviour; loss of views and light; and increases in litter and fly-tipping.

“These funds could mean improving small open spaces in the city centre, addressing traffic and parking arising from new developments or upgrading children’s play facilities in Sharrow and Highfield.”

Following the consultation period the council are planning to use 90 percent of the funding in the most deprived areas and a minimum of 10 percent in wards in which the development took place.

The plans will be discussed at a council cabinet meeting next Wednesday, October 17, at 2pm.