Cambridgeshire set to miss out on millions of pounds for affordable housing
A £100m affordable housing scheme in Cambridgeshire will not continue to be funded by the government after “insufficient progress” was made.
The scheme was agreed as part of the 2017 devolution deal, with £45 million of the funds still outstanding.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor James Palmer said the government “have not made it easy for us to deliver on their programme”.
Minister for regional growth and local government Luke Hall told the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority on Thursday (March 11) in a letter seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I have concluded that the programme has made insufficient delivery progress and that the value for money being achieved is below our expectations. I will not be extending the timeframe or continuing to fund the programme on its current basis.
“However, rather than closing the programme at this point, I remain committed to enabling investment in schemes that will deliver further affordable housing, at pace, in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”
He added that the department would consider making further funding available to the combined authority for the delivery of affordable housing by March 31, 2022.
Labour MP Daniel Zeichner said: “This is a shambles. There is a desperate need for affordable housing in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
“This was one of the mayor's flagship schemes but his incompetence means that families in need of an affordable place to call home will now suffer. Frankly it is time for new leadership.”
The affordable housing programme has been providing funds in grants or loans to third parties to help with the delivery of affordable housing.
It planned to deliver 2,000 new affordable homes in the area over five years, but the combined authority says it has so far only received £55 million.
The decision does not affect a separate £70 million affordable housing fund paid by the government to Cambridge City Council to deliver 500 new council homes.
Aidan Van de Weyer, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the mayoral election on May 6, added: “This is disastrous news for the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
“As a result of Palmer’s incompetence and arrogance, hundreds of desperately needed affordable houses will now not get built. The housing programme is now at an end and several schemes that had been approved – and that residents were looking forward to – will have the rug pulled from under them.”
Councillor Van de Weyer added: "The housing money devolved to the mayor was not new money, but was going to be invested by the government through Homes England into the area. So we are now actually worse off because of Palmer's tenure as mayor than if he had never been elected.
"It is clear that the government simply do not trust Palmer to deliver on his promises or to spend tax payers' money wisely," he said. "Palmer is the only metro mayor in the county who has had money removed from him by government. He is a national embarrassment. He is dragging the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough down with him. He needs to be replaced."
The Labour candidate for the mayoral election, Nik Johnson, has called for an investigation.
Mr Palmer said: “The government has said very clearly that they will enable the combined authority to deliver existing schemes in the pipeline – so there will be money available.
“How much that is I don't know, because we've got to sit down with them and discuss how much money we need in the short term.”
In a statement defending the “innovative solutions” his authority has attempted to put in place to provide affordable housing, the mayor highlighted that £40 million of the existing funds provided has been loaned out, and that the combined authority is expecting returns on those loans which can then be put toward further affordable homes.
He added: “The government have not made it easy for us to deliver on their programme. There was the seven month delay they created at the outset, which meant 142 homes could not be funded and our entire pipeline of projects was lost. There were repeated queries and clarifications, taking up officer time that could have been used on delivering homes. Finally, there has been the delay on releasing the final years' funding and dispute over the end date.”
He said the government has committed to “the release of further funds to get as many affordable homes as possible started” by the devolution agreement timeline of March 2022.
A spokesperson for the combined authority said: “At this stage it is difficult to determine exactly how much money the combined authority needs to complete its housing programme to March 2022 as the housing pipeline is live and changing. The £100million affordable housing programme update going to the housing committee on Monday (March 15) provides a good indication of where the programme is to date.”