Yesterday’s Times published this eye opener on Tories policies on localism and planning:
The Shadow Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, said: “Whoever wins the election, funding will be under severe strain, with the need to cut the deficit. But we’re proposing a new approach to housing finance in urban areas where, for every new home built and occupied, we will give the local council £1 for every £1 they earn in council tax. For affordable homes, this will be £1.25 for every £1.”
This money would not be extra funding, but would be taken from existing funds available to councils through government grants. “It’s a more intelligent way to change human behaviour. People will be in favour of new homes being built if it means more money for the community,” Shapps added.
He calls his proposal an “intelligent way to change human behaviour”. Peculiar, I thought this was the way they train dogs.
Central Government Grants amount to about three quarters of a Council’s budget, it pays for all essential services and to say that part of it will be lost unless people agree to large housing developments is a gross display of contempt for local democracy.
I believe that people are entitled to the services they pay taxes for, whether they agree with Mr Shapps plans for their neighbourhoods or not, and unless we reform the tax system for every new pound of Council Tax raised by Local Authorities in Britain the Government should still give about three more according to the needs for services in each local authority, not according to how many new houses they built recently.
Imagine the consequences of this policy. Towns where the economy doesn’t thrive and investment lacks would be condemned to increasingly smaller budgets and poorer services, in other places cash strapped Councils would allow unsuitable developments to happen only to get the extra cash needed to cover the gaps that the Tories plan to produce in Councils all over Britain to cover the cost of this incentive system.
According to this proposal (here’s a link to a paper that explains it well) each year between 2011 and 2015 Councils will lose an extra £250m compared to today’s projections for grants (they say that the money will be found by taking £250m per year off what would otherwise be the overall increase in formula grant to councils in each of those years), as if Councils were immune from inflation and by 2014-15 they’d have lost £1.25bn of the money they need to provide services at today’s level, just to fund the Tory system of incentives to new housing.