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Blog - 21st June 2023

Jun 21st, 15:34

Blog - 21st June 2023

In this blog I consider the Kirkby Stephen Town Council and the National Association of Local Councils’ representations to the government on the Infrastructure Levy.

Last month I was elected to Kirkby Stephen Town Council. It is a non-party-political Town Council so all the candidates and councillors stand and sit as themselves rather than as party representatives. This year we had a contested election – that is unusual – and I was one of the nine successful candidates.

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Kirkby Stephen

Kirkby Stephen Town Council’s website describes Kirkby Stephen as follows:

“A traditional market town of historic buildings, cobbled yards, quaint corners and interesting shops, ideally located in the beautiful Upper Eden valley, formerly the old county of Westmorland, now Cumbria. This is an area of Cumbria much less well known than the Lake District, but equally appealing. It is surrounded by a landscape of pastoral rural scenery and wild uplands and offers breathtaking views in every direction and has been part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, since 2016. Remotely located from large towns and population centres, Kirkby Stephen has developed a strong and self-sufficient identity and a vibrant sense of community.”

It describes the Town Council as follows:

“An active and forward thinking Council which represents and serves the local community. The Town Council aims to respond to the needs and aspirations of the people it represents and to undertake work which benefits the town and its residents. It is also active in addressing local issues, dealing with any problems which arise and generally ‘getting things done!’.”

Services that the Town Council provides include a Community & Council Centre; an Information Centre; a weekly Market with a Charter that dates back to the fourteenth century; Environmental services including parks, street cleaning, street lighting and grounds maintenance; support for the town’s bus services; and grants to community organisations. Both the Town Council and the principal local authority – Westmorland & Furness Council – are committed to further devolution of responsibilities to the Town Council. This means that, Kirkby Stephen Town Council, in common with other town councils across England, will have an increasing role to play.

Kirkby Stephen Town Council’s website can be viewed by clicking here.

In my election address I said that:

“The Town Council has a massive role in our community both through the services that it provides and through the influence that it has on other public, private and voluntary bodies.

“Kirkby Stephen is a wonderful place to live but I think the Town Council could and should be making it even better. I would like to join the Town Council so that I can play a part in that.

“Issues that the Town Council should consider tackling include:

  • Traffic congestion, car parking, poor street / footway lighting and lower speed limits in residential areas.
  • Public transport, including better bus connections with Kendal and Penrith, better rail services and a better connection between Kirkby Stephen West Station and the town centre.
  • Housing, including the need for appropriate development, the provision of more affordable housing and measures to limit the number of second homes and holiday homes.
  • Improving access to health and social care services.
  • Supporting a vibrant town centre as part of a vibrant local economy.
  • Improved facilities for local people including better maintained play areas.
  • Improving the town’s offer to tourists and visitors, for example, by considering the opening of a museum or heritage centre.
  • Stopping the discharge of sewage into the River Eden.
  • Improved financial management and value for money.”

My election address can be viewed or downloaded by clicking here.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Local Councils has urged the government to ensure that local (parish and town) councils, with or without a made neighbourhood plan, receive proper receipts from the new Infrastructure Levy.

In its response to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities technical consultation on the Infrastructure Levy, the National Association of Local Councils argued to the government that local councils without a made neighbourhood plan should receive 25% of receipts and that local councils with a made neighbourhood plan should receive 35% of receipts. They are also calling for new local councils to be created everywhere so they can receive the neighbourhood share of the money instead of unelected community bodies.

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Building Site in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

The National Association of Local Councils argues that:

  • It is right that the government intends to build on the current community infrastructure levy for the new Infrastructure Levy with a local council being the body who will receive the neighbourhood share. This is consistent with the government’s approach to devolution to local leaders with local accountability. Local councils are the first tier of local government and as democratically elected local leaders they are accountable to local people. Unelected and unaccountable local bodies that do not operate within the same extensive legislative frameworks as local councils should not be in receipt of the neighbourhood share.
  • Under the new levy, local councils must not receive a smaller percentage neighbourhood share than the current value being allocated to neighbourhoods in the existing system. Only by ensuring that this happens will the government guarantee that communities will benefit from development and local councils can invest in local infrastructure and other priorities. However, by regulation, the government should ensure that the minimum flat rate share that planning authorities can set for the neighbourhood share as part of their Infrastructure Delivery strategies at 25%. An uplift or added incentive for communities that have a made neighbourhood plan in place, which is presently the case where the Community Infrastructure Levy is charged, also needs to be provided in the regulations.
  • As proposed in an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill at committee stage in the House of Lords, the Neighbourhood share should be 25% of receipts for local councils without a made neighbourhood plan and 35% of receipts for local councils with a made neighbourhood plan. This uplifted amount will retain the added incentive for local councils to develop neighbourhood plans. Furthermore, local councils should be named in law through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill as the person to whom infrastructure levy receipts can be passed.
  • As democratically accountable local leaders, local councils should have full flexibility as to how to use and spend the neighbourhood share as they are often at the front line of dealing with the impacts of development with residents, businesses, services and facilities.
  • We welcome the fact that infrastructure levy regimes will be mandatory for local planning authorities to adopt. This will prevent planning authorities from wriggling out of their infrastructure levy payment commitments to local councils, create a wider incentive as stated above for local councils to make neighbourhood plans, and weave into the process a much needed ladder of accountability.

The National Association of Local Councils’ response can be viewed or downloaded by clicking here.

My next webinar will be on ‘How to Register a New Registered Provider (Housing Association)’. It will be held on 20th July 2023. For further information or to register, please click here.

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