Amber Valley Council scraps plans to fund new affordable homes

A cash-strapped Derbyshire council has pulled out of funding plans for more than 100 affordable homes.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 1:10 pm

The scheme was for 114 homes on Derwent Street in Belper.

Labour-led Amber Valley Borough Council, for the past two years, has planned to plough £600,000 into the scheme, to ensure its delivery and to provide much-needed affordable housing in the town.

However, due to the council’s own budget issues, which leave it within reach of effective bankruptcy, its leader Coun Chris Emmas-Williams, has chosen to ditch these plans.

Amber Valley Borough Council said budget issues were behind the decision

In a formal executive decision notice, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Coun Emmas-Williams said: “Although the council needs more affordable housing, it also needs to address a significant financial deficit and consequently cannot invest in a scheme that does not provide a financial return.”

It is believed that the council would have been teaming up with Nottingham Community Housing Association to push the would-be scheme forward.

Coun Kevin Buttery, leader of the opposition Conservative group, said the affordable housing scheme would have generated £160,000 a year in council tax – to be spread among Derbyshire authorities.

He suggested Homes England, a government body which funds affordable housing, is also looking to support the potential Derwent Street scheme.

Coun Buttery said: “This appears to be a long-standing scheme with Nottingham Community Housing Association, which the council had previously agreed to support.

“There are scant details revealed as to why the leader of the council has suddenly decided to withdraw £600,000 worth of funding, which certainly needs to be explained.

“A decision such as this, to back out of a scheme at the last minute, can only damage the council’s reputation, which leads to a loss of confidence by the housing association sector as well as Homes England, who were also supporting the scheme.

“We may now have 114 badly-needed affordable homes lost to the borough, which would have generated in the region of £160,000, annually, in council tax.”

CounEmmas-Williams said that the retraction of funds was required in order to balance its budget – a deficit he says the Labour group ‘inherited’.

He said: “We believe that the free gifting of money directly to housing associations is not the best way to ensure the delivery of affordable housing whilst protecting the public interest.

“We can maximise the affordable housing provision with shared ownership schemes that maintain the control of the assets within the council.

“People can rest assured that this £600,000 earmarked for affordable housing will indeed be invested in affordable housing, that will allow a sustainable return for the council.

“This way we both deliver the housing we need, plus contribute to repairing the £2.3 million deficit that we inherited.

“We are sure that the housing association behind the embryonic plans on Derwent Street can still deliver affordable housing there, without this public subsidy.”