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New Homes in Jeopardy say Lib Dems

March 16, 2003 12:00 AM

The creation of new affordable housing for Cambridge has been put in jeopardy by a recent decision of the government. The Labour government has abolished the grant given to local councils to help them create homes that ordinary people can afford.

"I am very concerned about the consequences of this decision and I have written to John Prescott to express our concerns. This is especially worrying for a city where land is scarce and expensive and there are more than 3000 people waiting for housing they can afford", says Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith, the Liberal Democrat executive councillor for Housing and Health for Cambridge City Council.

In the past Cambridge City Council has been able to use some local discretion in funding schemes which meet local needs that are different from the regional priorities.

But now the government has abolished the Local Authority Social Housing Grant (LASHG). This has been an important way by which Cambridge City Council has been able to ensure the creation of new affordable housing to meet some of the enormous local need.

Over the past three years 190 new units have been completed, partly funded by LASHG to the tune of £1.7 million. Cambridge City Council has been able to work with developers, housing associations and the Housing Corporation to take advantage of every opportunity that has arisen.

So what will replace this grant?

The government's plan is for a new regional housing quango, the East of England Regional Housing Forum, which makes the key decisions as to what the needs of the city are and what developments of affordable housing will get support.

"The prospect of decisions vital to the future of housing in Cambridge being handed over to a non-elected quango is profoundly anti-democratic and not in Cambridge's best interests. These decisions need to be made locally by people with good local knowledge and who are accountable to the local population." Says Cllr Nimmo-Smith.