Norfolk second homes cash row
Sarah HallControversial proposals which would see cash from council tax on second homes diverted from building affordable homes into improving Norfolk's infrastructure have been upheld, despite angry opposition.Sarah Hall
Controversial proposals which would see cash from council tax on second homes diverted from building affordable homes into improving Norfolk's infrastructure have been upheld, despite angry opposition.
Norfolk County Council's cabinet agreed earlier this month to create the Norfolk Infrastructure Fund, using a share of money raised from council tax on second homes currently ring fenced for the county council to spend on affordable housing projects in consultation with the relevant district councils.
The cabinet says it needs to take 25pc of the total �3.3m in that second home council pot -�829,000 - to prepare Norfolk's infrastructure for the significant housing growth planned in the county in the next 20 years.
But the move has sparked anger among some parishes and councillors, who say the money should stay in areas which have high numbers of second homes.
Liberal Democrat county councillors James Joyce and Mervyn Scutter called the item in for discussion at yesterday's meeting of the county council's cabinet scrutiny committee.
Mr Scutter said: 'The setting up of an infrastructure fund I do not have a problem with. It's a good idea and there are many needs for that fund.
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'The main concern we have is the way that will be funded, in the use of second homes council tax. That will have a major impact in the districts, and from what I read in the papers there has been little or no consultation with those districts in terms of the impact on them.'
But Daniel Cox, Conservative leader of the county council, said he had written to district council leaders. He said: 'If district leaders had raised issues I would have brought that to cabinet or withdrawn the report.'
He said Virginia Gay, the leader of North Norfolk Council, had emailed him in December describing the move as 'extremely welcome' and he had received nothing to suggest there were 'significant concerns' from district leaders.
He added the money would not simply be used to improve infrastructure in growth areas such as Norwich, King's Lynn and Thetford, but would be used across the county.
However, Mr Scutter said: 'Clearly some of the money is going to be used in areas which have not generated it and I think that is wrong. The money should be used to offset the damage done by second homes.'
The committee agreed to uphold the cabinet's decision, with 10 votes for and four votes against.
After the meeting Dr Marie Strong, Lib Dem county councillor for Wells, said: 'There are more second homes in my division than in any other division in North Norfolk - conceivably in Norfolk. No wonder I am receiving so many demands for the income to remain for the benefit of this division, and indeed of other divisions.
'To keep villages alive we need to invest - not take away. We need to improve transport, communication, to promote small businesses.
'It makes no sense to see villages dying in many cases because of second home blight and not use the money accruing from these homes to keep the villages alive.'