Rural plan funding worry

RULING Liberal Democrats on Sheffield Council have been accused of recycling an announcement of funding for rural areas - and of promising additional cash without identifying where it will come from.

The concerns about 1.8 million of funding for the council's proposed Rural Strategy were raised by opposition Labour members at a meeting of the authority's Successful Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee.

The meeting heard 750,000 to fund energy efficiency measures was money which has already been announced - along with 50,000 towards a range of rural development work, already pledged by the North Community Assembly.

The source of the rest of the funding has not been identified.

Labour group leader, Coun Julie Dore, said: "They have not been clear about the finances of this strategy. We are asking how it will be funded. We are working through a process where 80 million of savings are having to be found over the coming financial year."

Deputy Labour leader and opposition finance spokesman Coun Bryan Lodge said: "We fully support providing additional resources to rural areas but there are some problems.

"Some of the figures is money that has already been announced being announced again - and other amounts, such as 450,000 for affordable housing in rural areas to be found from the Homes and Communities Agency - how likely is it we are going to get that in the current economic climate?"

Coun Tony Damms, Labour member for Southey, said: "I'm concerned we may be building people's hopes up. We need to ensure this strategy can be delivered."

Green Party leader Coun Jillian Creasy said she was concerned there was no mention in the plan of encouraging more local food production.

The meeting heard the Rural Strategy will initially be launched in western and northern parts of Sheffield on the fringes of the Peak District National Park.

It could rolled out to other rural areas of Sheffield such as around the south east, at a later date.

It aims to invest in rural companies, improve internet connections and provide better services to residents of countryside areas.

Coun Penny Baker, cabinet member for housing, responded to the concerns. She said: "I think it's a good point that we should show what money we have and where the rest is to come from. It is something we will look at."

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