St Austell Council offices
Cabinet next Wednesday will discuss what to do about the council offices in Penwinnick Road, St Austell. The report tells us that when the council was first set up, they did some work to identify which offices they wanted to protect and keep, one of which was St Austell. Then along came a supermarket and made them an offer, so they decided to flog it anyway. The report seems to be suggesting that they might like to house the 350 staff who currently work there at the Sedgemoor offices, which I think are at the back of Ozzell Bowl, but that bit wasn’t really clear.
Anyway they have invited bids to see what they get for it, but we’re not allowed to know what they say. And the website gives us a link to the explanation for why we’re not allowed to know what they say, which tells us nothing in English.
New Homes Bonus
This report details how the council wants to deal with the almost £2m new homes bonus that it has for this year – a figure that will increase markedly in future years. It says, for this year, and notably no commitment for future years, that it wants to use the funding to support housing priorities – which I commend.
It indentifies – three types of support – Provision of new homes to meet local need, bringing empties back into use, supporting enabling infrastructure to bring forward and support new housing sites.
I have no great problem with these priorities in principle (although there are other aspects I would like to see given consideration as well), but I would like to know more of the detail of how the money will be spent – how much on each of these elements? – and where? – and specifically how much on the infrastructure bit? – on this part a commitment that it will only go to support infrastructure on sites with a considerable affordable housing element might be good.
Perhaps they could use some of the money to assist those currently in poor standard housing, how about supporting some of the voluntary sector organisations who house vulnerable people to improve their housing conditions? Housing isn’t all about building new you know.
Part of the purpose of new homes bonus is to reward those communities who accept new housing. It would be good to see this made explicit by returning at least a proportion of the new homes bonus to the areas in which it was raised and to commit to consulting the relevant communities on how it is spent.
I do not agree with delegated authority asked for in the report without a much stronger framework around how this funding (which will reach levels over £10m in 5/6 years time) is distributed and monitoring arrangements that report back regularly put in place.