UK news Rivals criticise mayor over Cambs affordable housing 'fiasco' last minute news
PremierLeague-News.Com- The mayor said "the only factor holding this up is civil servants"
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! Two mayoral candidates have strongly criticised the current Conservative mayor for his handling of a £100 million affordable housing programme, with a Lib Dem branding it “incompetent” and saying it is “putting in jeopardy future funding deals” with the government. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, which is led by the directly elected mayor, Conservative James Palmer, this week “suspended” some previously agreed plans worth over £10 million and which would help the delivery of 249 affordable homes in the county, because the anticipated funds have been withheld by the government. The government committed £100 million to the Combined Authority to help deliver 2,000 new affordable homes over five years as part of the 2017 devolution deal, with regular payments subject to review. But there are concerns over whether or not the government will hand over the remaining £45 million – £15 million of which is now overdue by over a year. The Combined Authority has said it still expects all projects for which grant agreements are being held back to go ahead on their original timetables and without delays. It says further government funding is expected “imminently” and that the suspension is only a “backup”. 'This is now having an effect on the delivery of much-needed affordable housing' But the delay over the funds means some schemes are being only provisionally approved, while other previously “unconditionally” approved schemes are now being “suspended” in order to prioritise those where construction is due to start soon and the money is needed before March. The Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate, Aidan Van de Weyer, said: “James Palmer’s incompetence is putting the delivery of affordable housing in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough at risk. “The failure of Palmer to give adequate reassurance to government means that we have not received the last two years’ of funding for affordable housing: nearly half of the £100m agreed as part of the devolution deal is now being withheld. Read More Related Articles Meet Labour's candidate for the Cambridgeshire mayoral election Read More Related Articles Meet the Conservative candidate for the Cambridgeshire mayoral election “This is now having an effect on the delivery of much-needed affordable housing across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. “The Combined Authority’s Housing Committee has had to delay full approval of some schemes. A total of 249 houses have now been ‘suspended’. A further 202 houses are at risk if the dispute with government is not resolved by the end of March. “This is having a particular impact in Peterborough. 215 of these affordable houses at in the city of Peterborough. “As well as potentially posing a risk to the houses already committed for the current funding cycle, this fiasco could lead to a future disaster for affordable housing in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Government will no longer trust a Palmer-led Combined Authority not to mismanage the millions of pounds handed over to it, putting in jeopardy future funding deals “Palmer’s Combined Authority has been in dispute with the Ministry of Housing since September 2019, and there is no sign that the issue is likely to be sorted out soon.” 'Mayor took individual charge of the scheme' Labour’s mayoral candidate, Nik Johnson, said: “The fact that over £40 million has just been withheld by central government with the mayor desperately struggling to meet the basic criteria for these projects is evidence in itself of the problem." He said the mayor “personally pledged delivery of these homes, and later took individual charge of the scheme when he sacked the previous Conservative portfolio holder.” He added: "He has failed to deliver on one of the most important promises to both Cambridgeshire residents and to the government. “This sad saga has been going on for 18 months now and those who suffer most are those in our communities who remain desperately in need of decent low cost and social housing.” The mayor, Mr Palmer, responded by saying work is ongoing and “the only factor holding this up is civil servants, who are admittedly under great strain dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic”.
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. We are ready to fund them and get these houses built. “The Government set us a target to deliver 2000 homes by 2022 and this is what we have been doing, working diligently with developers to find suitable sites that can be developed and funded. The only factor holding this up is civil servants, who are admittedly under great strain dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, but if they want us to hit their targets they need to get through these delays. “The targets set by government and delivered by the Combined authority are ready to be hit, and government have not indicated they are unhappy with the Combined Authority’s progress. We appreciate there are other pressing concerns in Government at the moment, but the potential impact on the housing schemes we have lined up to support is starting to become apparent. “In any event, being a Mayor is not just about being a distributor for government money; anybody can do that. The value of the role comes from using our local knowledge and our ability to innovate to do things differently and deliver where others have failed. Policies like £100K Homes, Community Land Trusts and our £40m Revolving Fund are some of the most innovative housing policies in the country. They pass control from civil servants, housing associations and landlords to communities, builders and buyers, and some people might be uncomfortable with this, but it is only with innovations like these will we ever resolve the Housing crisis.” 'We are still on target' The Combined Authority’s housing director, Roger Thompson, told the housing committee on Monday (January 11): “We are still on target to deliver the 2,000 unit target by March 2022”. He said “we haven’t got absolute certainty of having the money in the bank” and that some conditionally approved schemes – approved since the funding issue came to light, and agreed subject to receiving further funds – are now being priortised over other already “unconditionally” approved schemes with earlier start on site dates, suspending the completion of grant agreements for schemes due to start later. He said it is “effectively a swap and it should ensure no disruption to the programme in the short term whilst matters with the civil servants and MHCLG are resolved”. As part of the Combined Authority's programme it distribute sthe funds in gants and loans to third parties in order to help them deliver developments with more affordable housing than would otherwise be the case. The schemes which were “suspended” are: 67 affordable homes in Staniland Court, Werrington, Peterborough; 50 in Norwood Road, 19 in Hereward Hall and 21 in Queens Street, all in March town centre; 64 in RAF Upwood in Ramsey; and 28 in Stanground, Peterborough. The schemes which were prioritised are: 16 affordable homes in Wicken, East Cambridgeshire; 21 in More’s Meadow, Great Shelford; five in All Angels Park, Highfields, Caldecote, South Cambridgeshire; 40 in Springfield Avenue, Fenland; five in Sandpit Road, Thorney, Peterborough; a further 19 in Peterborough across different sites; and 96 in Newark Road, as part of Perkins, phase two, in Peterborough. After the decision to suspend £10 million in grant agreements was made, it freed up funds for the housing committee to approve further schemes: a £1,576,000 grant for 38 homes, 28 at an affordable rent and 10 shared ownership units at Wisbech Road, Littleport, East Cambridgeshire; a £749,000 grant to enable delivery of 15 additional affordable homes, all for social rent in Huntingdonshire; and a grant of £2,270,000 to enable delivery of 60 affordable homes, with a mixture of affordable rent and shared ownerships units in Peterborough. The government has not publicly stated why the anticipated funds have not been received. When asked about the funds last week, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Any suggestion that we are not supporting the delivery of affordable housing in the local area is incorrect. We have provided £55 million to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority to deliver affordable housing in the area since 2017 and are reviewing their progress as part of our regular monitoring of devolution deals across the country. “We’re increasing the supply of affordable housing across England, including in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, with the biggest single funding commitment to affordable housing in a decade.” The mayoral elections are due to be held on May 6, although there have been suggestions they could be delayed by the pandemic.