Lid Dems hit out at ‘unfair’ community funding decision

Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed
Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed

Sheffield Liberal Democrats have hit out at a Labour decision to spend a £1.1m pot of money on the most deprived areas of the city, saying they ignored residents.

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

About 80 percent is spent on major citywide projects such as Don Valley flood defences.

Traditionally, the remaining £1.1m ‘neighbourhood’ portion is spent where development took place.

But the ruling Labour group said there was a ‘strong moral argument’ to give the money to the most deprived areas.

Following a consultation and rows between councillors over the best way to spend the money, Sheffield City Council’s cabinet unanimously agreed to spend 90 percent of the money on the most deprived areas, and 10 percent where the development took place.

Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Liberal Democrats, accused the ruling group of having a ‘we know best attidude’ and said: “The levy was introduced to make sure the local community was compensated for disruption and greater pressure on their local services from developments such as housing.

“The formula being proposed by this council flies in the face of that proposal and will leave many communities worse off. The public comments in the consultation have been ignored which is typical of the Labour council’s ‘we know best attitude’.”

He added during consultation only the amount of CIL collected in each ward was included in the report for councillors and public, not how much each ward would receive after the split had been calculated, leaving many areas ‘worse off’ than others.

Coun Mohammed said if this figure was included the result may have been different.

He said: “We believe if the council had provided information on the actual amounts of money being awarded to local communities, we would have learnt the true extent of how unfair these proposals are.”

Labour coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and development, defended their decision and said: “Given where we are in terms of Government cuts and our budget presently, we know this has had a disproportionate impact on some of our poorest communities. It is absolutely right that to mitigate some of the damage from austerity we take this approach, which is most in-line with our values and what we want to see.”

Coun Jim Steinke, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, added: “I welcome this and would hope ward councillors can now crack on with trying to identify some bold, imaginative projects to address some of the major issues in areas of highest deprivation but, also in those areas of less deprivation where we can work on schemes that are going to have a broader impact on the people.”

After raising concerns with the council, the Liberal Democrats have managed to send the decision to the safer and stronger communities scrutiny committee for further consideration.

Coun Mohammed said: “We are concerned about the whole process in which these decisions have been made which is why we are sending the decision for further scrutiny with the hope of stopping this unfair policy from being implemented.”