I attended a Member’s Seminar today at Fenland District Council, which covered details of the new Community Infrastructure Levy, or CIL for short, which can replace the old Section 106 funds. If this sounds bureaucratic and wordy, that’s because it is! Both are ways that developers who build on land in an area can be asked to put some of their profits towards infrastructure for the local area. Both handle the matter differently to one another.
I won’t go into the details here – they aren’t exciting unless you are a developer, a Councillor, or a Planning Buff. Suffice to say the gist of the meeting seemed to be Officers telling Councillors why they didn’t much want to “opt in” to the new CIL method. Their arguments seemed fairly sound – more bureaucratic, expensive to implement, unlikely to raise much more money. But I still think it needs some consideration, as there are also areas which are quite interesting. Namely that a quarter of the funds go directly to Town & Parish Councils. District Councils don’t seem to get a lot (which probably explains some of the reluctance.)
I don’t personally have a view on where the money might be best spent. There are great Parish and Town Councils, and ones that are not so great. Same with District Councils. But if the new CIL is genuinely so expensive to implement and run, somebody needs to tell Parliament. New systems should be simpler and easier, in my view.
I will be reading a little more about CIL versus Section 106 before I make my mind up. Not that I don’t trust the word of Officers, but Councillors aren’t elected to just take things on blind faith.
- I heard a rumour that was simultaneously juicy and worrying, which relates directly to local UKIP representation at County Council. I want to check the details before I write about it, but if it turns out to be accurate then it’s a big deal and people need to know. More on that soon, if it resolves into anything tangible.
- Got caught up in the debate about Estover – the large patch of park and open lands in March that has controversially been faced with potential building applications. It rather seems to me that a few people are using the issue as a vehicle to pursue their own political ambitions and, in some cases, vendettas. Which is a perfect way to muddy the water and damage a potentially important campaign.
- Over in Wisbech I have washed my hands of trying to work with a certain Independent Councillor on the issue of local Taxi Drivers. In my opinion, the man is just too opportunistic and untrustworthy. We’d come up with a pretty solid plan to resolve some of the issues, but he didn’t bother coming back to me and the only thing I heard from him was a bunch of nonsense about Christmas Lights. He has announced that he has been talking to Council Officers and has “sorted the problems out and things are moving forwards.” When pressed for details about when he had done this “sorting out”, with whom and what the details and timescale were – there came no reply. So your guess, dear reader, is as good as mine.
- We (those Members of the Wisbech Town Council working on the Christmas Lights Project) hope to have the Christmas Lights Question put to the public next week, with a voting deadline of the following week. The question will hopefully be a simple one. We would like to do X, X and X, and it will cost £X which will be paid for from the Town Council’s reserves and then followed by fundraising to try and recoup some or all of the funds over the next couple of years. People will be able to say “Yes” to that, or “No.” If they say “No” it won’t mean we will never upgrade the Christmas Lights, only that we’ll have to do it more slowly and raise the money in a different way. Or ask again some other time. If they say “yes” then we’ll *try* and do it this year. If we don’t have time – which is quite possible given the date – then we’ll look to put the new lights in place for next year. Either way, in the end, the choice is down to those people of Wisbech who bother to respond to the question put to them. What they say, the majority of them, is what we’ll do.