Housing Minister Grant Shapps has announced that £431 million has been paid to local authorities under the New Homes Bonus. This covers 159,000 homes from October 2010 to October 2011 including 137,000 extra homes and 22,000 long-term empty properties brought back into use. It also includes the first affordable homes enhancement, which totals £21 million in respect of 61,000 new affordable homes.
We are committed to ensuring that the Bonus remains a flexible, non-ringfenced fund, for local communities to spend as they see fit – from reinvesting it in housing or infrastructure, support local services or local facilities, or using the funds to keep council tax down. Local authorities are best placed to understand the barriers to growth in their areas, the needs of their local communities and lead a mature debate about the benefits that growth can bring. There are already good examples of local authorities using the Bonus in a variety of ways. For example Wychavon are returning up to 40% to the community where growth is taking place. Liverpool are reinvesting in a commitment to deliver 2,000 new homes. The Vale of White Horse are investing in business growth by making the car parks free in the three local market towns of Abingdon, Wantage and Faringdon.
The New Homes Bonus is a key part of our ambition, set out in the Local Growth White Paper, to create a fairer and more balanced economy through encouraging growth. It will sit alongside the Government's proposals to allow local authorities to benefit from economic growth by the local retention of business rates. Our reformed Community Infrastructure Levy allows local authorities to ensure development contributes to the infrastructure needed to support growth and will give people a real say in spending to deal with the impacts of growth on their neighbourhoods.
It sounds to me an interesting and important good news story.
Perhaps the Radio 4 Today programme will invite Mr Shapps on to talk about it?