“Theresa May’s £1.6 billion ’shameless bung’ to MPs in a bid to get them to back her Brexit deal is not new money, it has been revealed.
Much of Government’s ‘Stronger Towns Fund’ Much will be distributed to Leave-voting Labour heartlands to give communities a boost after leaving the EU.
Angry Labour MPs accused the Prime Minister of trying to woo them to back her plans ahead of this week’s failed second vote.
But the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) have confirmed it is not new money and will be met from existing departmental budgets. …”
“Community group Light Up Axminster is inviting people to have their say about the town’s future development during a programme of ‘Community Conversations’.
Funded by an Awards for All grant from the National Lottery the group is exploring the things that matter to those that live, work and visit the town.
The aim is to highlight the highs and lows of community life and how the town can shape its future together.
The ‘Community Conversations’ will take place at a range of venues and times throughout March and early April and will be led by Light Up Axminster’s Cindy Furse with film-maker Rich Tomlinson and Actiontrack’s Nick Brace.
Anyone attending is asked to take a photograph, picture, poem, drawing or description of their favourite thing about living in Axminster and the thing that they would most like to change.
These will be used to create a picture of what is important in the community. For anyone who can’t attend the themed sessions there will be a number of drop-in sessions, too.
Contact Cindy Furse on 07930 800225 or email email@example.com for more information, or join the conversation on Facebook/LightUpAxminster
Thursday March 14: The Light House (formerly Marle Gallery):
9am to 10am: drop in; 10am to 12pm – regeneration, development and growth; 1pm to 3pm – education and employment; 3pm to 4pm: drop in.
Friday, March 15, Axminster Guildhall: 9am to 10am: drop in;
10am to 12pm – sport and leisure; 1pm to 3pm – arts, culture and heritage; 4pm to 5pm – drop in.
Tuesday March 19: The Light House: 12pm to 2pm – spaces, places and facilities; 2pm to 3pm – drop in; 6pm to 7pm – drop in; 7pm to 9pm – health and wellbeing.
Wednesday March 20: Millwey Community Hall: 12pm to 1pm – drop in; 1pm to 3pm – education and employment.
Wednesday March 20: The Light House: 5pm to 7pm – drop in; 7pm to 9pm – sport and leisure.
Friday March 29: The Light House: 9am to 10am: Drop in; 10am to 12pm – health and wellbeing; 1pm to 3pm – spaces, places and facilities; 4pm to 5pm – drop in.
Tuesday April 2: The Light House: 7pm to 9pm – arts, culture and heritage.
Thursday April 4: Millwey Community Hall: 6pm to 7pm – drop in; 7pm to 9pm – regeneration, development and growth.”
EDDC press release:
“The £17m relief road and 850 homes, in the Masterplan for the east of Axminster, have been put at risk by a late change in Homes England funding.
East Devon District Council has reacted with dismay to news that government agency Homes England has changed how it is assessing the council’s £10 million bid for Axminster relief road.
The council bid for a non-repayable grant in 2017. This bid was accepted in February 2018, to be used to help fund the delivery of the crucial new relief road and associated homes, employment land and community facilities.
The council has now been told by Homes England that a new condition of the funding is that the money must be repaid by the development.
Council leader Cllr Ian Thomas is enormously concerned that the decision potentially puts the Axminster Masterplan in jeopardy.
He said: “We are dismayed by this fundamental change of mind. It throws the whole Axminster scheme up in the air and means that the effort we and our partners have put into this critical scheme over the last 12 months may have been completely wasted.
“Since I was first elected leader, I have been absolutely consistent that we don’t simply build homes, we build sustainable communities. The Axminster Masterplan is an excellent example of such a community. It would bring enormous social and economic benefit to Axminster, by delivering high quality affordable housing and employment land, together with other essential community facilities. After this decision from Homes England, it feels like we are back to square one. It’s bitterly disappointing.
“We understand that our scheme is one of a number across the country where similar funding decision changes are being made, as Homes England assesses the viability of schemes on a fundamentally different basis, to that applied in our original agreement with them.
“Our council is now considering its options. This includes taking legal advice to investigate whether we may have strong grounds to challenge Homes England’s decision.
The masterplan for 850 homes with employment land, open spaces and community facilities was endorsed by the council’s strategic planning committee in January. The plan was based on the money from Homes England not being repaid and even then, the development could only be made viable by expanding the site area and increasing the number of homes proposed to around 850. The amount of affordable housing required from the additional 200 homes was also reduced from 50% to 25%.
Following a decision by Homes England last week, it would appear that the development will have to repay the £10 million of government “grant” and the masterplan is no longer viable in its current form.
The council must also consider revisiting the masterplan to understand the consequences of the decision for the amount of affordable housing, employment land and community facilities to make the development viable again.
Throughout the masterplan process, the council has always been clear that the urban extension of Axminster is not just about delivering housing and the relief road but is about helping the town grow as a community in a sustainable way supported by the services and facilities that it needs.
The council is frustrated that Homes England’s change in approach puts this all at significant risk and could make the development undeliverable. It will be seeking an urgent meeting with Homes England to discuss this case and other implications for investment in the district.”
You read here that EDDC Conservatives have decided that the only town they will put forward for this (meagre)fund is Axminster. Well, good luck, Axminster!
But when voting day comes remember your councillors have alteady overspent around £3 million on their new HQ and are funding a new road at the airport for another £3 million AND setting up a £20 million property company to invest OUTSIDE East Devon.
“The Stronger Towns Fund, announced by the government yesterday, is a £1.6 billion fund to be spent between now and 2025 on places that are often referred to as ‘left behind’.
£1.6 billion as a lump sum is not to be sniffed at, even though in government spending terms it’s relatively small beer. Share small beer out over seven years and it’s reduced to a thimble full; around £267 million total per year if spending starts in the financial year 2019/20 and is distributed evenly until 2025/26. Share it out further to all the places in the UK that most need government investment, training and jobs and it’s a droplet in the ocean.
If that were the beginning and end of it, then fine. ‘Government announces small bit of funding for something that needs a bigger bit of funding’ is not much of a story. However, the government is giving with one hand, and taking much more away with the other.
The Revenue Support Grant is given to local authorities by central government and makes up around a third of councils’ budgets. Between 2018/19 and 2019/20, the grant is due to be cut by 37% — that’s £1.3 billion in a single year — on top of savage cuts to it that have already taken place.
From 2013/14 to 2019/20, even with locally retained business rates and the main government unrestricted grant, local authorities have seen their net incomes decrease by 48%. The year of Stronger Towns Funding that will presumably occur in 2019/20 (if allocated equally over six years) compensates this loss by less than 1%. Council incomes will still have been cut by 47%. The whole Stronger Towns pot of money would reduce this loss by no more than 5% if provided in one year — which will not be the case. Of course, some regions will receive more than this and others less, but compared to the staggering cuts to local authorities, the new fund pales in comparison.
Aside from this loss of government money, post-Brexit the UK will be losing money provided by the European Union via its structural funds. Between 2014 and 2020, the UK will have received €17.2 billion for regional and social development, which has flowed significantly to many of the same areas that the Stronger Towns Fund will prioritise.
If the UK were to remain in the EU, between 2021 and 2027, €13 billion of EU structural funds would flow to poorer regions; significantly more than the Stronger Towns Fund. Some further settlement is expected from central government to compensate areas for this loss, but the amount is still unclear.
The Stronger Towns Fund has not gone down well in many of the regions, smaller cities and towns at which it will be targeted. And why should it? One cause of the economic malaise many of these places face is austerity. Reversing its effect will take more than this paltry offer. It will take a transformational approach to government investment, focused both on rebalancing the economy and restoring basic public services that are often the lifeblood of communities.
Many, including opposition politicians, have suggested that the Stronger Towns Fund looks like a bribe to persuade Labour MPs in leave-voting constituencies in particular to support the government’s Withdrawal Agreement. If so, the chances are it will have the opposite effect. …”
Bet it won’t only be Cranbrook with its non-High Street (currently only 5 shops for the growing town) that will be miffed but also Seaton, where the Tesco superstore has sucked the life out of its High Street!
“Axminster will be put forward as the East Devon town to try and grab a share of a £675m fund to ‘help failing High Streets’ – ahead of Cranbrook.
East Devon District Council’s cabinet on Wednesday night agreed to submit a bid for Axminster to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.
The Future High Street Fund has been set up to help address the significant structural changes that are currently having an impact on towns and high streets throughout the UK. …”