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Sussex councils given millions in bonuses for building new homes
10:54am Wednesday 18th December 2013 in News
Sussex councils have been given millions of pounds in bonuses as a reward for building thousands of new homes.
The Government’s New Homes Bonus scheme rewards local authorities for delivering newly-built homes, conversions and bringing empty homes back into use.
By matching council tax raised from new properties, the aim is that town hall bosses have more cash for further developments.
The top recipient in Sussex is Brighton and Hove City Council, which has pocketed £6.25 million since the programme began in 2011, including a payment of £2.67 million for 2014/15.
Government figures show 2,018 new homes were built in Brighton and Hove since 2011, in addition to 128 empty homes brought into use.
This figure is set to grow, as last week the Government ordered the city council to find even more space to build 20,000 new homes.
But despite the cash boost, some claim that officials have been using the money to shore up other parts of its squeezed budget.
Mary Mears, a Conservative councillor on Brighton and Hove, said: “We have a housing shortage in this city. We are desperate for redevelopment and new homes in Brighton and Hove.
“But the money is going into the council’s General Fund and not being used for what it should be used for – driving further development.”
The local authority has not commented at the time of publication.
Elsewhere to date, Arun District Council has been given £6.18 million; Mid Sussex £5.3 million; Lewes £2.7 million; Worthing £2.2 million; Eastbourne £2 million; Hastings £1.96 million; and Arun £1.3 million.
Housing minister Kris Hopkins said councils were free to spend the cash “how they liked”.
He said: “Top-down Regional Strategies and eco-towns failed hardworking families who aspired to own their own home, and built nothing but resentment.
“In stark contrast, councils have received over £2 billion for their part in getting Britain building, and leading to housing construction reaching its highest levels for seven years.”
Despite the good news, the bonus looks set to stop as the Government top slice the pot and divert it towards Local Enterprise Partnerships.
Councillor Jonathan Ash-Edwards, of Mid Sussex District Council, said: “The level of New Homes Bonus we receive will change each year, so we cannot rely on it to fund council services.”
He added the extra cash was being used to support one-off projects, such as funding grants for the disabled to improve their housing.
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