Communities in Cheshire West are outraged by a borough council proposal to cut hundreds of thousands of pounds of vital funding.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) is proposing to retain 100% of the New Homes Bonus – which the Government pays to local councils for increasing the number of homes and their use – as part of a saving strategy.
Twenty per cent of the pot of money has been paid directly to town and parish councils since 2012, but now CWaC has suggested keeping it all.
But Tarvin and Huntington Parish Councils are among those which have voiced their dismay towards the proposal, which is out for public consultation until February 5.
Tarvin Parish Council says it is objecting in the ‘strongest possible terms’.
A statement on Tarvin Online reads: “The parish council is aware of the financial difficulties experienced by CWaC but believes that the ability to receive and spend small sums of money at a local level strengthens local democracy and meets the needs of a wider range of ratepayers.
“Tarvin has accepted new housing development but has had little in the way of new infrastructure investment.
“The money from the New Homes Bonus, while not large, was expected to grow overtime and to be used for a number of local initiatives.”
Village facilities and initiatives which have been purchased using the New Homes Bonus include the community centre’s defibrillator.
The parish council had earmarked future instalments for improvements to the proposed traffic management system in Oscroft, as well as to the car park at the King George V Playing Fields.
Launch of online petition
Huntington Parish Council has launched an e-petition on the Cheshire West and Chester Council website, urging the authority not to cut the funding.
The petition, which has been signed by more than 130 people so far, says stopping the payment would be ‘a breach of faith’ which could cause communities ‘severe’ problems if they have borrowed against the promise of the New Homes Bonus.
Huntington parish councillor Anthony Wilcox told the Chronicle: “As the former Saighton Camp development progresses, the original size of Huntington will effectively double.
“The parish council was starting to consider how best to spend the income from the New Homes Bonus to provide bigger and better facilities for both the existing and new residents.
“We spent a large proportion of our existing New Homes Bonus money on providing vastly improved facilities at the Jubilee Field play area.
“Feedback we get from that is fantastic but we want to do so much more, like the provision of toilet facilities and a pavilion perhaps, none of which will be possible if we lose the 20% of the bonus.”
'Very difficult' decisions
Cabinet member for legal and finance Cllr David Armstrong, however, explained that CWaC face ‘some very difficult’ decisions because of the £47million of cuts it needs to make over the next four years.
He said: “If we were to give away 20 percent of the New Homes Bonus this would equate to £1.4 million in 2016-17.
“And that comes at a time when we need to balance the needs of local communities with the needs of an aging population and vulnerable families across the borough.
“If the decision was taken that the council retains all the New Homes Bonus, it would be targeted in a focused way towards delivering the council’s key priorities and ensuring the communities that need it most feel the benefit.”
Upton by Chester Parish Councillor Brenda Southward added: "What we mustn't forget is that it's the Government who are forcing local authorities to make cuts by taking away funding."
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