Hart Council has committed to spending the £150K Government funding it received on Shapley Heath. It has also said that it will seek a further £500K of funding from next years’ budget. By way of context, Hart’s annual spending budget is around £10m. So, this £500K represents about 5% of annual expenditure.
However, Hart’s finances are coming under increasing pressure.
First, they are forecasting an overspend for the current 2019-20 financial year.
Second, the medium term outlook is deteriorating. It was described in a recent Cabinet paper as a “perfect storm of detrimental changes to funding”.
This is caused by a number of issues such as the New Homes bonus being phased out and a reduction in business rates income. They are reliant upon risky and uncertain income from their commercial activities to balance the books from 2021/22.
This is illustrated in the following excerpt from the Cabinet paper:
The medium term forecast is reliant upon making more than £500K profit in FY21/22 from commercial activities. This rises to over £1m in the following year.
Given this backdrop, it is unbelievable that they are planning to spend around £650K on Shapley Heath Garden Village. We have shown how the project is not required. The Inspector said there’s no evidence it’s viable or deliverable. It will drive up the housing target and be made irrelevant by Grazeley. Not to mention the unnecessary 1m tonnes of CO2 that will be emitted during construction. This is a white elephant project that we cannot afford. It must be stopped.