Community Infrastructure Bids 2021

Community Infrastructure Project Bids

On Monday 14 June, the Elmbridge Borough councillors for Weybridge and Oatlands and Burwood Park sat down to try and distribute around £202,500 from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) fund across 20 bids for funding received in 2020 and 2021.  The total value of the bids submitted was over £1,257,000.  This presented quite a challenge to your councillors at the Local Spending Board meeting.

What sort of projects?

The nature of projects requesting bids ranged from those submitted by Surrey County Council for local highway junction and cycleway improvements; those submitted by Elmbridge Borough Council for improvement of community assets and the majority, those from community organisations, charities and sports clubs, for improvements to their facilities and buildings.

For councillors this was a challenging task and one which we knew would result in disappointment for many of the organisations involved. Many very worthwhile projects were not granted any funding. See further below for details about the bid scrutiny process.

So which bids were actually granted funding?

In the event, nine bids were allocated funding as follows (see details of the bids below):

Application 1 – Seven Hills Road Footway/Cycleway (Surrey County Council) – Full grant of £50,000

Application 2 – Re-Surfacing of Car Park and Provision of Bike Rack (St Mary Oatlands Church) – Partial grant of £15,000 of the £30,000 sought

Application 3 – Baker Street Junction Improvements for Pedestrians (Surrey County Council) – Full grant of £25,000

Application 4 – Brooklands Community Park – Car Park Extension (Elmbridge Borough Council) – Full grant of £32,500

Application 6 – Scout HQ Repair & Camping Equipment Store (1st Weybridge (Brooklands Own) Scout Group) – Partial grant of £6,500 of the £22,500 sought

Application 8 – Cricket green improvement works (Weybridge Cricket Club) – Partial grant of £44,5000 against the £84,500 sought

Application 9 – Weybridge Men’s Shed (Weybridge Men’s Shed) – partial grant of £12,047 against the £34,803 sought

Application 10 – Walton & Hersham Arena Pitch Improvements: Floodlighting (Walton & Hersham Youth Football Club) – Full grant of £8,690.22

Application 13 – Hydrotherapy Pool Improvements (Walton Leigh School) – Partial grant of £8,341.85 against the £25,000 sought.

The bids in more detail

Seven Hills Road Footway/Cycleway (Surrey County Council)

The proposed project would replace the existing footpath with a larger multiuser path. It would enable increased safety and capacity for residents and formalise usage for both pedestrians and cyclists. It would also improve traffic flow as vehicles won’t have to overtake cyclists. The project will provide a key nonmotorised user (NMU) route in the area and promote active travel. The majority of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £50,000 for the project.

Re-Surfacing of Car Park and Provision of Bike Rack (St Mary Oatlands Church)

The project proposes to resurface the existing car park using eco-friendly methods, improving the layout, and subsequent flow of traffic, and to install a bike rack to encourage more usage of sustainable travel to the facility. The facility and car park are used by a variety of users, including community groups and nearby schools, so the project will improve usage and safety. A portion of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £30,000 for the project.

Baker Street Junction Improvements for Pedestrians (Surrey County Council)

The proposed scheme is to improve the crossing facilities for pedestrians at the two junctions of Baker Street with the A317 (eastern end – Monument Hill and western end – High Street). The improved alignment of the routes will improve safety and the ease of usage for pedestrians, which will encourage more residents in the area to choose active travel means. Over half of the funding has been secured and £25,000 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Brooklands Community Park – Car Park Extension (Elmbridge Borough Council)

The proposed project is to extend the car parking provision by 50 spaces, as well as improving the flow of the current car park to eliminate the current requirement for users to reverse out, which will improve the safety of all users of the park. £32,500 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Scout HQ Repair & Camping Equipment Store (1st Weybridge (Brooklands Own) Scout Group)

The project proposes to install a new externally accessed storage area and improve the drainage to reduce the flooding in the building’s hall facility. The new storage area would enable the outside space and the hall to be used separately by different groups at the same to increase the capacity for the community to use the space as well. A portion of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £22,500 for the project.

Cricket green improvement works (Weybridge Cricket Club)

The proposed project seeks to upgrade the pitch and area surface through groundworks and the installation of an irrigation sprinkler system, which will reduce the flooding risk to parts of the site and enable more usage of the pitch and area through the year. A portion of the funding has been secured, and the CIL application is for the remaining £84,500 for the project.

Weybridge Men’s Shed (Weybridge Men’s Shed

The project is project is to fit out the newly built shed with resources and utility connections to provide a space for those dealing with social exclusion, loneliness or depression to come for wellbeing support and community inclusion in the area. £20,756 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Walton & Hersham Arena Pitch Improvements: Floodlighting (Walton & Hersham Youth Football Club)

The project is for portable floodlights and storage which will increase the time that users can play on the pitches throughout the year by the various teams and groups, providing an increase in the usage of the pitches and decreased pressure on other lit pitches in the surrounding area. £8,690.22 in CIL funding is being requested for the project.

Hydrotherapy Pool Improvements (Walton Leigh School

The project proposes to upgrade the changing and shower facilities for the pool to enable better wheelchair access and increased usage by the students and community members using the specialist facility. A portion of the funding has been secured, a funding application is awaiting confirmation, and the CIL application is for £25,000 for the project.

The CIL bidding and scrutiny process

All bids for funding need to meet criteria set by the council. These are designed to evaluate the suitability and value of the projects in the context of CIL funding. Bids are score against the criteria and ranked accordingly. The criteria used are:

  • The extent to which the project mitigates the impact of development within the Borough
  • The level of benefits to residents, including evidence of community support
  • The level of match funding attached to the project
  • Value for money of the scheme and added value that CIL could deliver, and
  • Deliverability

In a year when there was a significant gap between that amount of funding sought versus the amount available, the scoring system had a significant impact. This meant that the highest scoring bids were more likely to receive funding. Additionally, one of the allocation rules is that the CIL funds are available only for a year and that there should be a high probability that the total cost of the project will be raised by the bidder, so that the project is carried out within a year. (See above, deliverability within the year is one of the criteria for bids).

Funds are retrospectively paid to projects at project completion and project spending is scrutinised by council officers to check that the funds given were spent in accordance with the bid specifications.

Where do the funds come from?

Elmbridge charges developers a tax for new development known as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

National government said this new tax was to be raised for the purposes of providing new or improved infrastructure in Elmbridge.  The new tax began in April 2013 and has raised a considerable amount in the eight years since its introduction.

The money raised is split so that Elmbridge retains 75% for strategic infrastructure projects and 25% is given to towns.  This is allocated to each town in proportion the the tax raised in each town, which reflects the amount of development there has been.

 

Chancellor forces sell-offs

monopoly_housesNational governments often claim that they support local democracy.  However the evidence is otherwise.

The Conservative national administration is forcing boroughs to sell off their more expensive housing stock.  This will reduce the ability and thus rein wealthy areas to pay housing association to sell of their own social housing stock.

These measures will have little impact on providing more housing.  If we want more housing where it is needed than we need to look closely at:

  • Ensuring that all places have a duty to house their own in their area. A village would have to purchase or build houses to enable anyone born in the village to live there.
  • Replacing business rates and council tax with land tax. This would end the current tax on building improvements and focus the tax on the value of the land instead.  This would bring more brownfield sites on stream quickly.
  • Removing stamp duty on house purchases. Stamp duty is a significant factor in discouraging people to move.  Removing stamp duty would encourage people to move rather than extending and thus help those further down the housing ladder.  This move would reduce the national exchequer’s revenue but the loss of this source of income could easily be compensated by reducing the capital gains exemption for domestic properties.  This would have a double desired effect of damping down house prices and encouraging people to spread their investments more widely into industry, bonds and commerce.

If locals had to provide homes for their own, the number of houses on offer would begin to suit the local demographic without having to change the planning laws and/or the national administration poking its nose into areas where it is not wanted or needed.

More housing control from Westminster

Housing benefitsNational governments often claim that they support local democracy; however, the evidence is often otherwise.

Take housing benefit – part of the £12bn in welfare savings is to be made by the national government instructing boroughs to reduce their rents.  This will save the national government £1.4bn in housing benefit by reducing rents paid to social landlords.  The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that this will mean a loss of £2.5bn to boroughs which could be made available for new housing.  Overall government loses out but the centre gains and localities lose.

This measure will have the net effect of reducing the provision of housing.  If we want more housing where it is needed than we need to look closely at:

  • Ensuring that all places have a duty to house their own in their area. A village would have to build houses to enable anyone born in the village to live there – a town likewise.
  • Replacing business rates and council tax with land tax. This would end the tax on improvements and focus the tax on the value of the land instead.
  • Removing stamp duty on house purchases and fund this change by reducing the capital gains exemption for domestic properties. This would allow people to move house more frequently and encourage people to spread their investments to the betterment of the economy.

If locals had to provide homes for their own the number of houses would increase without having to change the planning laws and/or the national government poking its nose into areas where it is not wanted or needed.

Surrey Allowance Increases

money-43Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Surrey Liberal Democrats wrote to the Secretary of State asking him to investigate the excessive increases (from £27,000 pa to £43,000 pa) in councillor allowances and the excessive number of special responsibility allowances pushed through by Surrey’s Conservative administration. She also asked him to check whether the national government’s own regulations had been followed by the Surrey administration.

Cllr Watson said : “I am delighted with the response I have received from Brandon Lewis, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to my letter. He has condemned the decisions on councillors allowances as “deeply concerning” and agrees with me that Surrey did not comply with government regulations. He has stated that the national government expects those in public life to show restraint and to set levels of allowances for councillors and remuneration for officers which reflect the pressure on budgets and the need to pay off the deficit left by the last national administration. I totally agree with his comments.

“Given the national government’s clear condemnation of the decisions and also the outrage expressed by the Surrey people who have to foot the bill, I am again calling on Surrey’s Conservative administration to overturn their decisions on councillors allowances and replace them with something much more reasonable.

“Surrey’s Conservative administration is living in cloud cuckoo land if they think that they can get away with these outrageous councillor allowances. It is time for them to back down and admit they made a massive mistake to the detriment of the Surrey people.”

To read the letters to and from the national ministers click here.

New Mayor for Elmbridge

Homestart website

Following his election as Mayor of Elmbridge at the annual meeting of the borough’s council on Wednesday, 4 June, Councillor Barry Fairbank has chosen to support Home-Start Elmbridge during his Mayoral Year.

 

 

Cllr Fairbank, erstwhile leader of the Liberal Democrats at the borough,  represents Long Ditton but now lives in Weybridge.

Councillor Fairbank has been involved with Home-Start Elmbridge for several years and wanted to offer more support with his fundraising during his Mayoral year.

One of the aims of the fundraising for his mayoral year is to be able to train more volunteers to give their help and support to the many families, with a child under five, experiencing difficulties.

In an ideal world Home-Start Elmbridge wouldn’t be needed. But for many parents the pressures of family life are simply too much to cope with alone. There are so many reasons for this including; poverty, illness, family breakdowns and parental isolation.  And this is where Home-Start steps in… by recruiting and training local parent volunteers to offer emotional and practical support to families in their own homes. Home-Start volunteers provide vital early intervention support, often stopping a family from reaching crisis point. Life is getting tougher for many families, and the demand for Home-Start support is at an all-time high.

I think that Cllr Fairbanks choice of charity is excellent and you can donate here on-line. Remember ever little helps.  If you are an income taxpayer then you can even make the national government chip in too.

 

National Coalition offers 4.5% Extra School funding for Surrey

ClassroomSurrey Liberal Democrats have warmly welcomed proposals which will see Surrey receive nearly £25 million more in school funding than under the current system. This comes as part of an extra £350million boost to schools in the least fairly funded areas in the country.

The proposals announced in parliament by Liberal Democrat Education Minister David Laws will mean that funding will be allocated to local areas on the basis of the actual characteristics of their pupils and schools, rather than simply on the basis of historic levels of spending.

The proposed changes mean that, on average, schools in Surrey will receive £4,282 per pupil next year, an increase of around 4.5%.

Commenting on the announcement, Cllr Stella Lallement, the Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson on Surrey County council said: “This is fantastic news for Surrey children and is a much needed reform. The school funding system inherited by the coalition was unfair. Labour knew it was unfair, but chose not to act.

“For too long, school funding has been based on historical data that no longer reflects pupils’ needs. Similar schools just miles apart can be funded at very different levels, just because they happen to be in different local authority areas.

“This announcement, along with the pupil premium, will mean that our children can get the education they deserve. It is more evidence that the Liberal Democrats in government are actively implementing policies to build a fairer society.”

Elmbridge Budget

Next Wednesday, Conservative-led Elmbridge plans to decrease the council tax in real terms for next year by keeping the rate the same. Prudent stewardship or a gradual collapse into private wealth and public squalor?

National government taxes like: income tax, national insurance, VAT and corporation tax increase each year automatically in line with either income or prices (unless income or prices fall) – known to economists as fiscal drag.

But the single tax supporting local government – council tax does not. So if council tax is not adjusted each year then it gradually falls – it does not keep up with prices or salaries.

So, oddly, if you want council tax to fall in real terms simply don’t change it.

The whole situation is greatly affected by the extra freeze grant that the national government hands out to local government to encourage no increase in the council tax rate. This grant is powerful because if Elmbridge raised the council tax by just 0.1% it would mean a total loss of the grant.   And this year the coalition guarantee the freeze grant for two years in succession (to get them past the national elections in 2015.  What a way to run the country!

What’s your view?

Key Highlights from the Autumn Statement

Local Government Funding
While the chancellor has announced new, further departmental savings for departments, local government has been largely protected. The chancellor has said this is to encourage local governments to take up the national government’s offer of a council tax freeze which is again available in the coming financial year.

There will be a new national council tax discount of 50% for family annexes from April 2014. This will support extended families living together, for example with children saving for a new home or elderly parents (who would not otherwise qualify for the existing exemptions). It will be fully funded by the national government.

New Homes Bonus
Following the consultation carried out over the summer and in light of some powerful arguments made by colleagues in local government, the national government has confirmed that it will not pursue the proposal to top slice the NHB receipts for Local Enterprise Partnerships for councils outside London. The £2 billion Local Growth Fund will be made up from other decentralised budgets.

Cutting business rates and helping local shops
A series of measures have been announced to continue to prioritise small businesses and local growth. This includes:

  • The planned 3.2% RPI increase for 2014-15 will be reduced to 2%. There will be a £1,000 discount for all retail, pubs, cafes (excluding banks and betting offices) with rateable values below £50,000 for 2 years.
  • The doubling of Small Business Rate Relief will continue for a further year. Ratepayers will continue to keep their Small Business Rate Relief entitlement for a year where they take on a second property,
  • New occupiers of former retail premises which have been unoccupied for a year will receive a 50% discount for 18 months.

There will be a consultation on reforms to the business rates appeals process and a commitment to clear 95% of the September 2013 backlog of appeals before July 2015.
It has been reported that local governments will be fully refunded for the loss in revenue resulting from these changes.

Increasing funding for housing
A number of new measures to support house building were announced. This includes a £1 billion, six-year investment programme to fund infrastructure to unlock new locally-led, large housing sites. This will support the delivery of around 250,000 houses. More is being done to support Right to Buy; introducing agents help buyers complete their purchase, and a £100 million fund to improve applicants’ access to mortgage finance. There is also the intention to consult on a Right to Move for social tenants wanting to take up work or training in another area.

Announcement referred to a review into the role of local governments in supporting overall housing supply. Accompanying this, the national government has announced a limited increase in Housing Revenue Account borrowing.

The additional £300 million will be allocated via a competitive bidding process with support given to local governments which can produce good business cases, agreed by their local enterprise partnership, that bring in local authority owned land and other forms of cross-subsidy such as sales of high value vacant property, raising funds to provide more overall homes.

Delivering savings from cutting fraud
Alongside the roll of the Single Fraud Investigation Service, DCLG and DWP are investing in local government’s capacity to tackle non-welfare fraud. This package of support will include extra funding over 2014-15 and 2015-16 which will be able to support new fraud investigator posts in councils focussed on tackling corporate fraud.

Plans for improving Weybridge

Representatives of the Weybridge Town Business Group (my company is a member) and the Weybridge Society transport panel, which I founded, host a very interesting meeting to which they had visited local councillors of both Elmbridge and Surrey plus a number of officers from both administrations along with representatives of other local interested groups.

Tony Palmer gave a presentation highlighting the strengths of Weybridge and also the weaknesses.  There were a number of issues discussed, cycling provision, upkeep of green spaces, rates, planning class for retail, parking, safety, signage and heavy lorries – to name a few.

The achievement was to get so many people around the table.  Now it is important to ensure that the action points coming out of the meeting are taken forward.

 

Surrey Pot-holes

Surrey is number one for compensating drivers and riders for the damaged cause by pot-holes – almost four times the cost of the second highest county.  Simple incompetence.

Surrey £638,239
Notts £158,578
Kent £133,593
Lincs £119,706
Worcs £110,656
Essex £103,507
Herts £101,630
Lancs £97,160
East Sussex £86,591
Wilts £83,043