A short Council meeting with mostly routine stuff.
Public participation came from Allotmenteers. The Council had (for some time) been looking at a former allotment site as a site for housing. A question to the portfolio holder plus a petition essentially asking for that view to be reconsidered. I think we were all a bit surprised when the portfolio holder agreed.
Of course the evidence is stacked up heavily in favour of returning the land to its former allotted use.
Aging population - meaning more time rich people looking to keep fit.
Ever decreasing gardens - Most home built in the urban area over the past 10 years have no garden at all adding to allotment demand.
Some 600 are on the waiting list and the sites in the central area of town are the popular choices.
A green lung in our most built up areas, wildlife haven, biodiversity. The list goes on.
Some people often make the point that in financial hard times growing your own can save money. This may work out if you have your own garden, I'm not sure an allotment can yield sufficient produce to cover the costs (I'm happy to link to evidence proving one way or the other) so most do it for fun, fitness, freshness and fresh air.
Next up the Mortgage Support Scheme. The Council are looking to deposit £1m with Lloyds TSB to underwrite the deposit of local people looking to purchase there first home. Banks require higher deposits and house prices are at a level where you could need a deposit of £40,000. The scheme will allow Lloyds to accept a lower deposit as the Council is in effect covering much of the risk taken by the banks.
Of course Lloyds will still make sure you can afford the mortgage and there is a limit on how much you can spend on a property. The Council will get a return on their deposits, though a few defaulters could wipe that out.
Although I don't oppose the principle of the scheme, I was a little concerned about the limit of £238,000. There are 242 properties for sale under £175,000 (excluding retirement and shared ownership schemes). Surely if we want to help as many first time buyers stuck in the overpriced private rented sector as possible. Those desperate to get on the property ladder are usually happy to move a few miles from their preferred location knowing they could return in a years to come when their pay and savings allow. So I felt the limit was too high and will sadly restrict the number of people the scheme will support.
Labour were also reluctant supporters, not happy that £2m was being used to help first time buyers but not support those facing changes to their housing benefit (they usually make this point whether it is relevant to the debate or not).
Labour demonstrated that the ability to not understand the basics of finance are not limited to there MPs.
The Council put £1m in a Bank. The bank lend their own money to local people to buy homes. Our £1m is still in the bank. Those buyers successfully pay off their mortgage (often by switching to a different scheme or new property, rather than sit tight for 25 or 40 years) and the Council still has £1m (plus some interest of course that can be spend on funding services). There is some risk, but that's the case with any investment (Greek bonds, Icelandic banks?). The point is the Council are not spending money. They are not committing to a drain on revenue every year. Simply leaving £2m in a different bank.
Replacing lost national benefits with local benefits may have some mileage, however if it costs £1.5m (an example number rather than researched) a year across the borough , you have to find it from somewhere, every year.
local Labour also seemed to show they are not entirely up on the changes to housing benefit policy either I will blog later this week to help them out.