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Leaders condemn 'bizarre' new homes bonus payments proposal

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A government proposal to withhold new homes bonus payments from local authorities has been condemned by council leaders.

Simon Blackburn

Simon Blackburn

LGC reported last month how the Department for Communities & Local Government is considering “withholding” new homes bonus payments from councils which are “not planning effectively for new homes from 2018-19”. This could result in payments being reduced as a result of successful planning appeals or the quality of decisions taken by councils, while the DCLG has warned “we also intend to go further” the following year by linking payments to how many homes councils deliver against the government’s estimates for housing need in their areas.

On Monday, housing minister Alok Sharma also said the government “will consider” withholding new homes bonus payments from councils that fail to adopt a local plan.

Local Government Association chair Lord Porter (Con) called the proposed policy of linking new homes bonus payments to appeals “bizarre” as he said local authorities approve about 90% of the planning applications they receive, and of those which do go to appeal the inspectorate finds in councils’ favour nine times out of 10.

Papers which went before the LGA’s executive board meeting on Thursday said the Treasury had estimated the policy could save the government about £17m.

Speaking at the meeting Lord Porter, who is also leader of South Holland DC, said: “It’s not worth bringing the planning system into disrepute to save the Treasury a couple of shillings.”

Simon Blackburn (Lab), chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board and leader of Blackpool BC, said: “It’s nothing short of bribery.”

Marianne Overton, leader of the LGA’s independent group and councillor on Lincolnshire CC and North Kesteven DC, said: “If you link [new homes bonus payments] to appeals the whole perception of that would be horrendous.

“The credibility of our planning system would be seriously damaged if you linked it to appeals. The public will think that is why you have given permission – to avoid the risk [of losing money]. It would be very damaging indeed.”

The proposal, which the LGA is opposing, forms part of the wider consultation on the local government finance settlement for 2017-18. The deadline for responses is 26 October.

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