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Column 6th December 2017

How many times can you announce the same funding?

Is it smoke and mirrors?

How many times can the Government report the same funding?

An article in the Herald last week talked about a £215m payment from the Chancellor for major road and rail projects and for affordable homes in Oxfordshire.

This will support the District and City councils to achieve the ambition of 100,000 new homes across the county over the period 2011-2031, as identified through the 2014 county-wide Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and Local Plans.

Great news, but this is just a drop in the ocean compared with what is needed.

In August a report from the Oxfordshire Growth Board (comprising all six Oxfordshire Local Authorities) admitted that there was an £8.5 billion funding gap for the necessary infrastructure to support planned housing growth to 2040.

Out of £9 billion required only £510 million of secured funding had been identified.

As the quote from the Growth Board last week said “Under the terms of the deal the Government will provide Oxfordshire’s six local authorities with £60 million of funding for affordable housing, £150 million of funding (£30m for five years) for infrastructure improvements that will benefit existing communities and unlock new development sites. Oxfordshire councils are already committing in excess of £340 million to infrastructure and housing investment over the period.”

So my guess is the difference between the £340 million in the recent quote and the £510 million in the August report is the £150 million reported in the Herald last week.

We’ve heard it before and the figures are the same.

Similarly, on 27 November, Housing minister Alok Sharma announced £300 million for the Community Housing Fund, but this was initially announced in the 2016 Spring Budget by then chancellor George Osborne.

The government released the first £60 million in December 2016, with the relaunch of the fund amounting to £240 million.

So why do they do this?

Is it because they don’t really mean it when they first announce it and it’s only a idea, or is it just good publicity?

It’s like when governments around the world promise lots of money to disaster appeals and then the money never quite gets there.

This is the season of goodwill and charity so let’s be charitable and say it’s not smoke and mirrors, it’s just the government reminding us how they might spend our money.


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