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New homes earn record £3m bonus for council

Cllr Chris Saint.
Cllr Chris Saint.

THE building of new homes continues to cause some controversy, but they are giving a welcome boost to Stratford-on-Avon District Council’s finances, with the authority set to bank a record bonus payment from the government this year.

The council’s New Homes Bonus — a fund set up in 2010 from which the government matches the council tax raised on each new home built — will amount to £3.3million, up almost £1million from the previous year.

And it is coming as a welcome boost to the council’s dwindling finances with the amount of other government funding falling rapidly, and due to be wiped out altogether by 2019, when councils will become self-sufficient.

In the proposed budget for the coming year — set to be discussed by the district council’s ruling cabinet on Monday, 16th January — the bumper New Homes Bonus has, however, not seen off the need to increase the district’s share of householders’ annual council tax bills — they are set to rise by two per cent.

The budget also sets out plans for a further two per cent increase in the subsequent four years.

The extra money will help fund the appointment of a special projects officer, more staff in the stretched planning department, and the upgrading of some IT equipment.

Most fees for the council’s services that it charges residents for, such as replacement bins, pest control, and the issuing of licences will remain the same or increase only slightly.

According to the documents set to be presented to Monday’s meeting, the district council’s overall spending for the coming year will be £13.3million, around the same as the current financial year, while the council will also put over £800,000 into reserves, increasing the balance to around £7.4million.

Although in the coming four years the council predicts it will have to dip into what is effectively its rainy day fund, taking around £4.3million back out by 2022.

Council leader, Cllr Chris Saint, said: “We have done better than we would have imagined with the level of New Homes Bonus, which, as a funding stream, is filling a gap."

Warwickshire County Council, whose £380million budget takes around 80 per cent of the annual council tax bill, is expected to increase its share by four per cent.

But householders will not pay Warwickshire Police any more than they did last year, with its share of bills being frozen, raising around £38million of its annual £97million budget, with the rest coming the central government. Final bills will include contributions to town and parish councils.

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