Impact of Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill on Hart

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - RIP Shapley Heath

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – RIP Shapley Heath

Earlier this week, the Government launched the long awaited Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The full Bill, all 338 pages of it, can be found here. A summary of the proposed measures can be found here. The interviews carried out by Michael Gove and the Bill itself had a number of potential impacts on Hart.

  • National Housing Target
  • Five-Year Land Supply
  • Neighbourhood Plans
  • Duty to Cooperate
  • Enhanced Environment Protection
  • Mandatory Infrastructure Contributions
  • Regeneration

On first examination, these look to be positive proposals for Hart, particularly in that they appear to weaken the case for Shapley Heath. The proposals also strengthen powers to drive regeneration of town centres, which should be good news for Fleet and its businesses.

Let’s go through the detail.

National Housing Target

Michael Gove gave a number of interviews about the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. On BBC Radio 4, he was repeatedly asked about whether the Government was sticking to the national housing target of 300,000 new dwellings per year. He refused to give a clear answer each time he was asked, saying he didn’t want to be “tied to a Procrustean bed”. Yes, we had to look that up too. Essentially, it means an arbitrary target. He also said that that while “arithmetic is important”, he was not “bound by one criterion alone”.

On the face of it, the Government is backing away from this target, which means that Hart’s housing target should fall from the current 286dpa.  However, the Telegraph reported that a Downing Street spokesman stressed the target remained – while saying it was important to build the right sort of houses.

So, this is not something we can bank on yet. However, the current Local Plan calls for 423dpa. We are currently building far more than that. It seems unlikely to us that the current target of 286dpa will rise, so the upcoming Local Plan review ought to relieve pressure into the future. This will make the claims that Shapley Heath is required even more difficult to sustain.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Five-Year Land Supply

Related to the housing target, the new Bill proposes to scrap the requirement for Councils to maintain a five year land supply.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Five-Year Land Supply Requirement scrapped

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Five-Year Land Supply Requirement scrapped

However, this is conditional upon the Local Plan being up to date. By this they mean adopted in the past five years. To benefit from this proposal Hart will have to have an updated Local Plan in place by April 2025. Our current Local Plan is front-loaded, with completions falling below target beyond around 2026/27. This proposal should help with that problem.

At the very least, this Bill should scupper CCH’s “suicidal” plans to build Shapley Heath at a rate of 500dpa.

Neighbourhood Plans

The summary of the proposals says that neighbourhood plans will be strengthened to have equal weight with other planning documents.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Neighbourhood Plans given equal weight

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Neighbourhood Plans given equal weight

On the face of it, this is a positive development because is inconceivable that Winchfield Parish Council would include Shapley Heath in their Neighbourhood Plan. However, this must be tempered by statement in the full Bill that seems to prohibit Neighbourhood Plans reducing the amount of housing a Local Authority can deliver.

Neighbourhood Plans Cannot Cut Housing for the Authority

Neighbourhood Plans Cannot Cut Housing for the Authority

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Duty to Cooperate

The current duty to cooperate requirement will be repealed and replaced with a more flexible alignment test.

Duty to Cooperate Repealed

Duty to Cooperate Repealed

This is a positive development, because the current Local Plan includes an allowance to build housing for Surrey Heath. This allowance was already under question because the housing target for both Surrey Heath and Rushmoor has been reduced. Rushmoor is building far more than it is now required to do and could easily take any unmet need from Surrey Heath. However, the requirement to build houses for neighbouring authorities appears to fall away. This is good news in that it reduces Hart’s housing target.

Enhanced Environment Protection

The Bill also seeks to enhance environmental protections.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Enhanced Environmental Protection

Enhanced Environmental Protection

We know that parts of the Shapley Heath contain significant areas that are at risk of flooding. On the face of it, these proposals will make it harder to build in such an area. Moreover, the area contains SSSIs, SINCs and other protected areas. Enhanced environmental protections ought to help fend off proposals for Shapley Heath.

Mandatory Infrastructure Contributions

The Bill proposes changes to infrastructure funding. A new mandatory infrastructure levy is proposed to replace S106 contributions and Community Infrastructure Levy.

New Mandatory Infrastructure Charge

New Mandatory Infrastructure Charge

On the face of it, this seems to close the loophole where developers converting office blocks under permitted development rights were able to avoid infrastructure contributions. This should help the council adopt a better attitude to brownfield development.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Regeneration

New compulsory purchase powers are proposed in the Bill. These should help Councils rejuvenate town centres and regenerate brownfield land.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Strong Support for Urban Regeneration

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Strong Support for Urban Regeneration

Taken together, these proposals should finally end the ridiculous proposals for a new town at Shapley Heath. There will no longer be any excuses for Hart not to come up with bold new plans to regenerate Fleet, Blackwater and Yateley. These urban centres should be the focus of the updated Local Plan so we can make Hart an even greater place to live.

CCH Commits “Political Suicide”

CCH Commits Political Suicide

CCH Commits Political Suicide

A CCH Councillor has said that it would be “political suicide” to impose more housing on Hart than is needed.

Political Suicide to Build More than Needed

Political Suicide to Build More than Needed

However, the same Councillor has also outlined her party’s plans for Shapley Heath that amount to the very same “political suicide” she mentions.

Katie Davies 5000 over 10 years

Katie Davies 5000 over 10 years

Let’s go through how CCH commits political suicide:

Shapley Heath Not Required

CCH as a party are still pushing the very same development that was removed from the Local Plan by the Inspector because it was not required to meet our housing targets out to 2032. In their bid for Government funding they even claimed they would deliver Shapley Heath “in addition to” the requirements of the Local Plan.

Shapley Heath in addition to Local Plan

Shapley Heath in addition to Local Plan

CCH Propose Faster Build Rate than Required

Moreover, Councillor Davies has proposed a far faster rollout for Shapley Heath than was proposed in the Council’s bid for funding. The plan they put forward then ran for 16 years from 2024 to 2040, with a steady state run rate of 360dpa.

Shapley Heath Housing Trajectory Sept 2020

Shapley Heath Housing Trajectory Sept 2020

CCH are now proposing the development takes place over 10 years. Simple arithmetic would indicate an average build rate of 500 dpa. The pace of this single proposed development is nearly twice the latest Government target of 286dpa.

Government Housing target climbdown: New targets Hart Rushmoor and Surrey Heath

New targets for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath

CCH Not Addressed Inspector Concerns

They have said that they will “explore all options”. However, they have spent over £700K on Shapley Heath since FY19/20 and delivered nothing of substance. They have not formally considered any other option.  This is in direct contravention of the Inspector’s findings:

I am of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 [Shapley Heath] to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further SA work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options

Summary

They are proposing to consult on the same proposal that:

  • Is not required to meet our housing needs
  • Was rejected by the Inspector
  • Will deliver housing at nearly twice the rate required

They will do all this without properly considering any other option. Political suicide indeed.

 

Virtue Signalling Council Refuses Help for Hard Pressed Families

Virtue Signalling Hart Council Refuses Help for Hard Pressed Families

Virtue Signalling Council Refuses Help for Hard Pressed Families

At Council last week, we asked a number of questions to challenge the budget for next year. One of those questions asked what specific deliverables would be produced from the £250K they have set aside to “tackle climate change”. The answer revealed that they didn’t have the faintest clue what they were going to spend it on or what they were going to deliver with the money. The supplementary question asked if they wouldn’t be better to keep the money in reserves to balance future budgets or offer a rebate on council tax to help families struggling with the cost of living rather than signalling their virtue with other people’s money.

The full exchange can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/sa2I5KxdmsM?t=3809

This accusation caused offence to the Leader of the Council. We’re sorry if the truth hurts. Remember, climate change is supposed to be their “top priority”, but they have no plan. During the debate about the budget many of the Councillors got up to virtue signal express their outrage at such a suggestion. As they expelled lots of hot air containing 40,000ppm CO2, not one of them came up with a single idea to reduce emissions or improve the environment. The Conservatives proposed a motion to remove that item from the budget and instead offer a council tax rebate to the poorest households in the district. This amendment was rejected.

Among the critics of the amendment was Saint Councillor Peter Wildsmith, who asked for the £250K annual budget to be extended indefinitely to tackle the problem. Again, he didn’t come up with a single idea on how to use the money effectively. Now he has taken to social media to describe as a “disgrace” anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him.

The budget was eventually passed with a small amendment to offer a welcome £10,000 grant to Fleet Food Bank.

6 Ideas to Improve Hart’s Environment

We are very concerned about waste at Hart Council. Over £700K has been splurged on the doomed Shapley Heath project since FY19/20 and nothing of substance has been produced. They squandered ~£140K on planters and signs for the disastrous Fleet pedestrianisation project. Now it appears they want to create a permanent £250K/yr climate slush fund to parade their virtue and produce nothing but CO2-laden hot air.

We think if we criticise the Council we should offer some alternative ideas.

  1. The Council has substantial capital reserves. They should invest some of this to insulate better the social housing in the district. This would reduce emissions and reduce residents’ soaring energy bills.
  2. They have been talking about the “green grid” for a long time now and delivered nothing. They should accelerate this project to encourage and enable more walking and cycling.
  3. The Council offices are far bigger than they need. They should move to smaller, better insulated premises and reduce their own energy consumption.
  4. Apply for one or more of these grants to support planting trees in the District.
  5. End support for their disastrous plan to build 5-10,000 unnecessary houses at Shapley Heath. Construction alone would emit 1m tonnes of CO2 and destroy valuable habitat and carbon sinks.
  6. Extend the range of items that can be recycled in the blue bins.

Readers should also note that earlier iterations of Shapley Heath pushed the idea of a locally-sourced biomass energy plant. This is essentially chopping down the wonderful trees in the district to produce electricity. Burning wood produces more CO2 per unit of electricity generated than burning coal. At Drax, it also produces more particulate emissions than burning coal.

The Council declared a Climate Emergency last year. Since then the committee has met several times and produced nothing but hot air. None of the ideas above would require a single penny of the £250K they have allocated to be spent, but would help Hart residents directly and improve the environment. It’s time for the Council to stop the hot air and start acting.

 

 

 

Hart Budget Ugly News

Hart Budget Ugly News

Hart Budget Ugly News

This is the third post covering the Good, the Bad and the Ugly news arising from the release of Hart’s latest budget book. This news isn’t strictly about the FY22/23 budget, it’s about how they have changed the past budget and actuals.

  • They have changed the current year budget yet again.
  • The actuals for FY20-21 have been changed.

Hart Budget Ugly News – Another Change to the FY21-22 Budget

We have reported before on the many changes to the FY21-22 budget. The finance department have excelled themselves and made yet another change to the budget. This is best illustrated by looking at the “Appropriations” section.

Hart FY22-23 Budget Ugly News

Changes to Appropriations FY21-22

The slide above shows the Original FY21/22 budget, approved in February 2021. The two extra columns show the “Final V2” budget published in July and the latest version published as part of the FY22/23 budget book. Clearly, even “Final V2”, wasn’t final.

The first row shows the change in reserves transfers from capital. We’re not too concerned about this because to cover depreciation and is a non-cash item. They have previously disclosed that depreciation wasn’t included in the Original Budget.

The second row shows that they somehow forgot to budget over £1m of pension contributions in the Original budget. They then added them in Final V2.

The third row shows that they budgeted to transfer £381K to reserves originally. Note that positive numbers are costs in public sector accounts. In Final V2, this had changed to a £639K transfer from reserves. A swing of over £1m. In the latest iteration, they have increased this to a £769K transfer from reserves. We believe this is the same £130K that is replacing the Government grant that has been moved to last year’s accounts.

The level of change in the budget defies belief. How on earth can councillors or members of the public properly judge performance against budget when the budget itself is a movable feast?

Changes to FY20-21 Actuals

Not content with changing the budget during the year, they have now started changing the actuals. This can best be seen in the slide below.

Changes to Actuals FY20-21

Changes to Actuals FY20-21

Back in July 2021, they presented the performance for the year in the draft accounts. The budget they presented was different to all other prior representations of the budget, as we reported here. In the draft accounts, the actual controllable expenditure was recorded as £11,868K. In the latest budget book, that has jumped £1.23m to £13,101K, an increase of £1.23m.

Where on earth has this extra spending come from? How did they miss it when presenting the accounts to the auditor for approval.

 

 

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News

This is the second of our three posts covering the Good, the Bad and the Ugly parts of Hart’s FY22-23 budget announcement. The four main areas of bad news are:

  1. The Health and Wellbeing Service has been cut completely.
  2. The costs of the finance department has gone up dramatically.
  3. Large salary increases for the Leadership Team.
  4. Above inflation increases across several contract areas.

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News – Health and Wellbeing

The Health and Wellbeing service has been cut to zero. As there’s a mental health crisis after the trauma of Covid lockdowns this seems to be a crass decision.

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News - Health and Wellbeing Cuts

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News- Health and Wellbeing Cuts

£118K was the budgeted spend for this year. However, next year no funds have been allocated. The have announced this in quite a sneaky way.  They originally published a summary of budget changes and this cut was not flagged up in the summary. Moreover, we could find no reference to this cut in the papers submitted to O&S or Cabinet.

The cut was buried in the bowels of the detailed Budget Book that was published after the deadline for public questions. We only found it because we were checking that budget added up properly, which of course it didn’t last year.

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News – Cost of Finance

The cost of the finance department has gone up dramatically. The budget for this year is £497,999. Next year the budget soars to £891,958, an increase of 79%.

Hart Budget Changes Corporate Finance

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News – Budget Changes Corporate Finance

Given the errors identified and the changes made to this year’s budget, perhaps some upgrading of skills in the finance department is justified. But 79% looks like an outrageous increase to us.

Leadership Salaries

Careful examination of the image above will show that the salaries for the Leadership team are going up by £42K. Remember, Hart has two full-time Chief Executives, so any increase awarded to one has to go to the other. Rather than increasing salaries, we should be cutting at least one of the posts. Regular readers may recall that Havant and East Hampshire share just one Chief Executive between them. There is no justification for keeping two JCXs. With yawning deficits as far as the eye can see, it’s time to bite the bullet and restructure the Leadership team.

Contract Inflation

There are worrying increases in the costs of a number of contracts the Council has awarded.

  • IT Contract up 46% (£164.1K/£356.4K)
  • Grounds Maintenance up 24% (£86.3K/£356.7K)
  • Street Cleaning up 23% (£138K/£604.2K)
  • Waste up 10% (£181K/£1,775K)
  • 5 Council Contract up 9% (£219.7K/£2,497K)

The latest figures we can find show the CPI measure of UK inflation went up 5.5% in the year to January 2022. Why is Hart facing such massive increases in the cost of services?

Hart FY22-23 Budget Changes Corporate Services

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News – Budget Changes Corporate Services

Hart FY22-23 Budget Changes Technical and Environmental

Hart FY22-23 Budget Bad News – Budget Changes Technical and Environmental

 

Hart FY22-23 Budget Good News

Hart FY22-23 Budget: Good News

Hart FY22-23 Budget Good News

This is the first of three posts covering the Good, the Bad and the downright Ugly parts of Hart’s proposed FY22-23 budget.  The really good news is that they are not budgeting to spend anything on the New Settlement. The New Settlement is also known as Shapley Heath or the Shapley Heath Garden Village (SHGV).

We can see this from the proposed budget for the service area. The full document can be found on Hart’s website. However, there is a history of these documents changing, so we have also uploaded it to this website, here.

Hart FY22-23 Budget: Good News

Hart FY22-23 Budget: Good – No funds allocated to Shapley Heath

As you can see, no funds at all are allocated to FY22-23. The bad part of this is that we can now calculate the full costs of this disastrous project since FY19-20.

  • Net actual and budgeted spending: FY19/20-FY21/22: -£30,361 + £186,126 + £149,167 = £304,932
  • Add grant funding and transfers from reserves: £150,000 + £130,000 + £130,000 = £410,000
  • Total Actual and Budgeted spend: £714,932.

Aside from some pretty inconclusive reports (which were funded by developers), nothing of any substance has been delivered for this eye-watering sum.

Changes to the FY21-22 Budget

There is also some ugliness contained in this report. They have changed the budget for the current year yet again. The original budget for FY21-22 was published in February last year. The part related to SHGV is re-produced below. This shows a total budget of £279K, with no contribution from Government grants.

HASETT - Shapley Heath New Settlement Budget Original FY21-22

HASETT – Shapley Heath New Settlement Budget Original FY21-22

In July, the budget had been changed in the Final V2 version of the budget. A £130K Government grant had been added.

HASETT - Shapley Heath Final Budget FY21-22

HASETT – Shapley Heath Final V2 Budget FY21-22

As you can see in the image above, that same £130K Government Grant has been moved to FY20-21. This is the year the money was received. Now for FY21-22 the grant has been replaced by a £130K transfer from reserves. We should add that we are unaware of any public process that has authorised either of these changes to the budget.

Call us old fashioned, but once a budget is set, we believe it should remain fixed and any variances reported against the budget.  The budget should not be changed during the year.

 

 

Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalls Budget Questions

Hart Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalls Questions

Hart Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalls Questions

Last night our questions to Hart’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee were stonewalled by the bureaucracy. We submitted questions on 9 February and received a response on 11 February saying that our questions had been accepted.

A catalogue of excuses were made to ensure that the questions could not be answered. First, the committee services officer had “forgotten” to circulate the questions to Councillors. This meant they couldn’t prepare their answers in advance. Second, apparently, only the portfolio holder for finance (Councillor Radley) can answer questions about the budget outturn report. However, when that item came up on the agenda, the S151 officer answered all of the other questions and Councillor Radley said virtually nothing.

Their solution is to bundle up the questions and get them answered at Full Council next week. However, that meeting will likely cover next year’s budget. We wanted to focus our questions on that agenda item, not this year’s outturn.

This is frankly pathetic. But as they say, you get most flak when you’re over the target. For the record, our questions to O&S are reproduced below. It remains to be seen whether they will appear in the minutes of the meeting.

Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalled Questions

Outturn Report

The outturn report refers to the original budget of £10,794K approved in February 2021. However, the budget approval included a contingency of £610K for “pressures” (see below):

Hart Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalls Budget Questions

Hart FY20-21 Budget Pressures £610K

To what extent has this contingency been utilised and how will the use of the contingency impact the forecast full year deficit of £488K?

Minimum Reserve

The August O&S was told there was £6.8m of reserves in the General Fund at the end of FY20/21. The same paper recommended a minimum level of reserves of £5.3m, leaving a headroom of ~£1.5m.

Hart Overview and Scrutiny Stonewalls Budget Questions

Hart Council Minimum Level of Reserves

With the current forecast deficit and the reserve transfer to cover the Leisure Centre shortfall, what is the current expectation of the reserve level, the minimum reserve and therefore the anticipated headroom at year end?

Moreover, with the current level of forecast deficits into the future, can officers explain when they anticipate reserves falling below the recommended minimum level?

What would be the consequences if that should occur and what further actions might be required to avoid reserves falling below the minimum level?

The video of the exchange is below:

hTtps://youtu.be/OVRmY8emf1s?t=3094

 

 

Hart’s Long Term Finances Spiral Out of Control

Hart's Long Term Finances Spiral Out of Control

Hart’s Long Term Finances Spiral Out of Control

At Cabinet on Thursday, they discussed the draft budget for next year and the medium term financial outlook. We will publish a post on next year’s budget soon. Today’s post focuses on the medium term financial strategy.

Unfortunately, the situation is dire. Despite the savings they have identified, they go into deficit again in FY23/24. The deficit continues to grow wider and wider to over £1.7m in FY26/27.

MTFS shows Hart's Finances Spiral Out of Control

MTFS shows Hart’s long term finances spiral out of control

Even these projections may be flattering, because they rely upon a replacement for the New Homes Bonus delivering £1.2m per year from FY23/24 onwards. As the report itself says, “there is absolutely no certainty” this will happen.

Hart's Long Term Finances Spiral Out of Control - New Homes Bonus Replacement

No certainty on New Homes Bonus Replacement

As can be seen, funding increases in each year. The problem is that costs rise by £600-700K every year. The explanation for these massive increases is sketchy at best.

Overall, they are projecting a cumulative deficit of over £3.8m from FY23/24 onwards. That doesn’t include the loss they will make this year. They budgeted for a £381K deficit and have already raided £1.4m from reserves to cover the loss of income from the Leisure Centres.

Impact on Reserves

The Council have said that the minimum reserves they require is £5.3m. At the beginning of this year they had £6.8m of reserves. Therefore, they only have headroom of £1.5m.

Hart Reserves at Risk - Finances Spiral Out of Control

Hart Reserves at Risk

Depending upon how bad the outturn is for this financial year, there is a high risk that they deplete their reserves below the minimum requirement in the coming years.

We can only hope that the secret meeting next week to discuss restructuring of senior management will deliver further savings.

Hart Council Senior Management Restructure

Hart Council Senior Management Restructure

Perhaps it is time they looked at more radical ideas such as joining forces with a neighbouring council as we outlined here.

Hart Makes Excuses in Answers to Questions

Hart Makes Excuses in Answers to Questions

Hart Makes Excuses in Answers to Questions

We asked questions at last week’s full Council Meeting. Unfortunately, we got a lot of excuses and not much in the way of concrete information. In summary:

  • Apparently, they were told by the Government to budget for the full amount due under the leisure contract in order to qualify for compensation. Now they’re sitting on a £700K loss year-to date. Apparently, they expect to lose the entire £1.4m they budgeted for the full year. This loss was not even identified as a risk in the budget that was signed off by Council in February 2021.
  • They are transferring £1.393m from reserves to cover the Leisure Centre losses. This reserve apparently comes from a VAT refund received some time ago. We tried to press to ask what sports facilities will not now be delivered. Apparently, spending this money doesn’t affect anything else. We remain to be convinced because it was the Cabinet minutes that revealed what the funds were earmarked for:
Hart Leisure Centres Bailed Out from Reserves

Hart Leisure Centres Bailed Out from Reserves

  • The excuse for producing an Infrastructure Delivery Plan where 72% of the projects are not costed is that the IDP is “a living document”. The last version we can find is dated February 2018. It may be just about be alive, but it’s been in hibernation since then. It’s disgraceful that they are producing such shoddy documents. We have been assured a further version will be produced after the CIL consultation has been completed.

The full Q&A session can be found here (p5 onwards)

Hart Makes Excuses Details

Question 1:

  • According to the FY21/22 budget book (account 91019), the track record of actual and budget for income from the Leisure Centres is:
  • FY18/19: £828K actual
  • FY19/20: £1,268K actual
  • FY20/21: £633K budget
  • FY21/22: £1,407K budget.

What was the thinking behind setting the budget at that level and what plans were made to deliver record revenue from the Leisure Centres during a pandemic?

Answer: Hart District Council has a contractual arrangement with Everyone Active (EA); for robust commercial reasons this was used as the budget for 21/22. The Government recognised the contractual position for Local Authorities and to
mitigate the worst adverse impact introduced a compensation scheme. The scheme is linked to the published Budget Book. The 20/21 Budget Book reflects the contracted management fee with Sports Leisure Management Ltd.

The budget accounts for the management fee contractually agreed with EA, it is not directly dependent upon Leisure Centre usage. A new contractual arrangement is being entered into moving forward which takes account of the anticipated pandemic recovery trajectory.

Supplementary: If the budget was set at £1,407k and government support was expected to that level,
why is income down £700k at the halfway point.

Supplementary Answer: The government compensation scheme does not cover for the full amount, but is based
upon the set budget, which reflected the contractual agreement with EA. The government gives some of the money based the budget not all, which is why it has fallen short. The amount entered into the budget book was correct as that it is what we would expect under the contract with EA in normal circumstances.

Question 2:

The Q2 Monitoring report shows that the Leisure Centres are reported to have a shortfall in income of £700K YTD and Cabinet papers indicate that this shortfall will be made up from reserves earmarked for Sports Facilities. However, note 5.11.1 in the draft accounts sets out the details of earmarked reserves and does not explicitly mention a reserve for Sports Facilities. Can you please explain exactly how much is being transferred and where the money is coming from?

Hart Council Earmarked Reserves

Hart Council Earmarked Reserves

Answer: There is an earmarked reserve with funding set aside from a historic VAT refund on leisure services to the value of £1.393k. This reserve forms part of Corporate Services earmarked reserves. The reserve will be used as needed depending on our review of open book income and expenditure on the contract with Everyone Active.

To be clear this is revenue budget money and is not taking away from any leisure services capital reserves or Section 106 funding.

Supplementary: What risk is there of a further reserve transfer next year?

Supplementary Answer: The budget to be approved in February anticipates the contractual amount we will receive from EA, so there should be no need for a further transfer, as we are producing a balanced budget.

Hart Makes Excuses Question 3:

The recently published Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) shows a funding gap of £57.9m. However, 72% of the projects identified remain un-costed. What is the realistic estimate of the full infrastructure funding gap and when will a complete IDP be published?

Hart Infrastructure Plan 72% uncosted

Hart Makes Excuses – Hart Infrastructure Plan 72% un-costed

Answer: The Infrastructure Delivery Plan is a living document, which is reported to Cabinet and Overview & Scrutiny at regular intervals. The report referenced in the question is the one presented to those committees in November. The next iteration of the Infrastructure Delivery Plan is due to be presented in the spring. This will have an updated estimate of
the funding requirements and the shortfall.

Supplementary: The indication in November was that there is that the CIL contribution will meet of ¼ of
the IDP funding. What is the impact on the CIL consultation if you are to republish a ‘proper’ IDP in three months’ time?

Supplementary Answer: The results of the CIL consultation will inform the next iteration of the IDP, but government mandates that the IDP must be set up with a shortfall to allow for developer contributions and other funding mechanisms to operate. The next iteration of the IDP will be published after the CIL consultation is complete, and then we will be able to establish the estimates of funding and shortfall at that time.

Hart Makes Excuses Question 4:

Which sports facilities will now not get delivered because of the transfer from reserves to cover the hole in the Leisure Centre budget?

Answer: The money that is being used to subsidise EA is coming from a revenue fund not S106 money or Capital Reserves, so there will be no impact on future provision leisure facilities or services.

Supplementary: Something must be losing money somewhere. If you making unplanned use of reserves on the leisure centre, what would that money have been spent on?

Supplementary Answer: The Council has reserves earmarked for specific purposes and a general reserve built
up that balances the ebbs and flows of our revenue streams. It is built up in good years to deal with difficult years, it is basically a ‘balancing reserve’. The last two years have been especially challenging because of the pandemic, so it has been a natural decision to use some of the reserves put away for a ‘rainy day’ for a couple of ‘rainy years’ and we would seek to add to the reserves again in good years. The money is there for that purpose. No one has lost out; it is simply good financial management.

 

Housing Delivery Test – Hart Builds Twice the Requirement

Housing Delivery Test Hampshire 2021

Housing Delivery Test Hampshire 2021

The latest Housing Delivery Test numbers have recently been released by the Government. These have been processed into fancy graphics by various companies in the property sector. Strutt and Parker’s graphic above shows that Hart has built at more than twice the required rate in the past three years. This is more than any other part of Hampshire.

This is confirmed by the figures in the Government spreadsheet. In this document, we can compare Hart with neighbouring Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.

Housing Delivery Test Government Figures

Government Table for Neighbouring Local Authorities

Hart is delivering more housing than both of them and far more than required. Further analysis of this sheet shows Hart is 23rd out of the 294 planning authorities. This puts Hart in the top decile of housing delivery compared to requirement.

Housing Delivery Test – Developer View

Developers are disappointed by this development. Planning Insight has produced a report analysing the performance of  Planning Authorities across Hampshire. They are less than pleased about Hart’s housing delivery and 10.2 year land supply.

Planning Insight Hart Housing Delivery Test

Planning Insight Hart Performance

Planning Insight do not expect Hart to be in the “Presumption In Favour of Sustainable Development” anytime soon. In fact, they assign a cloud next to Hart’s name.

This means that it does not look good for developers putting forward speculative housing proposals in Hart.

 

It is very puzzling that until very recently, Hart Council was pushing the Shapley Heath Garden Community. They proposed to deliver this community in addition to the Local Plan Requirements. Why on earth would we want to deliver even more houses when we’re already delivering at more than twice the required rate. Over £500K down the drain since 2018/19 on a totally unnecessary project.