Agenda item

Release of Core CIL Spending


ARobinson took the report as read and noted that the Council currently holds around £15m in core CIL and that the decision taken was to hold back on spending CIL until a local plan and infrastructure deliver plan was finalised. Given the delays to local plan, officers feel that delaying any spend on infrastructure is less justified. A number of options have been considered on releasing CIL and the recommendation is that 20% of core CIL is released. A number of technical changes to the bidding process has also been recommended along with changes to governance of the Infrastructure Advisory Group and how projects are approved.


ARobinson noted a correction on the first table on page 63 of the report, stating that the row 'Rest of borough-rural area' should read 9.8% with a total figure of £267,027.


ARobinson advised that a number of potential projects have been identified in the report, as set out in section 6.


Cllr Beauchamp noted the potential for making part Waterhouse Street into a cycle lane, noting that this would help alleviate some traffic issues, though this may push some to Leighton Buzzard Road. Cllr Beauchamp asked if borough councillors will have any input in how core CIL is spent.


ARobinson advised that the intention is that anyone can put together projects to go to the Infrastructure Advisory Group for assessment with no restrictions in place. Bids or projects will come in for assessment and projects will then be presented to the group who will then make a recommendation to the Portfolio Holder and Cabinet. ARobinson noted that they will also be looking at what other sources of funding are available, and where there is neighbourhood funding available, this will be explored before considering core CIL.


ARobinson commented on the cycle lane scheme, noting that he does not have the assessment of the impact on the area and is currently only listed as a potential project. It was suggested that this could be discussed further offline if required.


Cllr Foster asked for the difference between scrutiny and accountability from the existing and new process. ARobinson advised that they will broadly operate in similar ways, and whilst the membership will predominantly be the same, under the previous regime there would be an infrastructure business plan and lift projects from the delivery plan and set out a longer-term time horizon for spending CIL money. These projects would be assessed before going to full Cabinet and Council. The new proposal is that the infrastructure delivery plan is the core document and the business plan will be removed, and instead of recommendations going to Cabinet and Council, they will go to Cabinet for approval.


Cllr Foster noted the emphasis based on the IDP and asked which IDP the proposed projects are based on. ARobinson noted that the IDP is a live document that is reviewed at least annually, and the intention with the new process is to report an infrastructure funding statement every December alongside an updated IDP. The IDP sets out strategic priorities for the borough and projects will need to be identified on the IDP. The local plan is in development and a consultation will take place later in the year, therefore the intention is to update the IDP based on the emerging local plan.


Looking at the plan, ARobinson referred to the settlement table in section 5.3 and noted that they propose to release CIL funding and ring-fence it based on settlements. The IDP identifies £1.3bn of infrastructure, and if this is apportioned based on the settlement, this gives the figures included in the table. The initial release of money is based on the growth proportions set out, and projects set out at the back of the report are examples of projects the team is aware of and may not necessarily be brought forward.


Cllr Foster remarked on applying for CIL being the last option and suggested that it should be the first option available. ARobinson commented that local funding primarily sits in neighbourhood pots that sit parish councils or ward members and should therefore be the first pot of funding to explore before looking at core CIL. ARobinson noted that core CIL sits within a strategic framework. Cllr Foster clarified that if an application sits within strategic funding then they could request CIL funding before looking elsewhere. The Chair added that this is additional funding what parishes already receive through CIL.


ARobinson explained that, as part of the assessment process, they would look for a demonstration that other sources of funding have been explored first where possible.


Cllr Anderson commented on core CIL funding not being spent until this point, noting that they will not get enough CIL to meet infrastructure needs and it has not been spent in an attempt to save as much as possible. Cllr Anderson advised that they are only releasing a small amount for quick wins and that they would need to be strict on awarding it. Cllr Anderson added that considerations aren't just geographical but they also need to consider types of funding, noting that 40% should be spent on education, 40% on transport and that Dacorum will only receive 20%.


JDoe noted that they have been collecting CIL since 2015 and there is now a need to refresh the governance around it. On which funding should be explored first, JDoe advised that parish or town councils have a lot more latitude over the use of local CIL, and they need to be more rigorous on how core CIL is used. There may also be other forms of funding to explore to ensure that the borough is benefiting.


ARobinson advised that other sources of funding may be available and that these will be taken into consideration when assessing if core CIL should be used.


Cllr Roberts referred to the examples listed on pages 71-73 of the report and asked if anything should be done by councillors related to these to apply for these projects. ARobinson explained that the projects listed will be assessed first as they are projects that they are already aware of, though this does not necessarily mean they will be funded. An initial assessment will be conducted shortly, and there will be future rounds of assessment. ARobinson recommended to members that if they have a particular project in mind then they should get in touch with the team for guidance on what information is required. If an application misses this round, it will be considered as part of the next round. SJayasinghe recommended that members inform the team of potential projects as soon as possible so they can take members through the assessment process.


Cllr Timmis referred to item 5.4 on page 63 of the report and queried what counts as education as part of infrastructure given that education is provided by HCC. Cllr Timmis commented on highways and transportation, and asked when this is a DBC decision rather than that of HCC.


ARobinson advised that the tables in the paper represent how much of the known infrastructure requirement, and the thematic table represents how much of the total infrastructure is needed for transport and recommendation. It was noted that education means new schools, and Cllr Timmis stated that this is an issue for HCC. ARobinson agreed, noting that despite who it is provided by, the infrastructure need is linked to new schools. If core CIL is released, it can be focused in a number of ways, such as by a settlement of thematic basis, and the recommendation is to not fix it thematically and instead by settlement.


On the Highways Authority role, ARobinson suggested that this be discussed further offline to ensure that they discharge their functions correctly when looking at planning applications.


Cllr Timmis referred to page 77 of the report and the table on how money would be distributed. Cllr Timmis commented that if you are not "parished" then funds are held by the council and ward councillors responsible for spend, otherwise the funds are transferred to the parish council to make the decision. Cllr Timmis noted that she regularly attends parish council meetings though is not seen to be making any decisions regarding the spending of CIL. ARobinson noted that it is set in the regulations that funding has to be transferred to parish councils for their use.


Cllr Timmis commented on Hemel Garden Communities, noting that a large amount of CIL will be accrued Great Gaddesden Parish Council. ARobinson commented that this would depend on several assumptions. Cllr Timmis asked if the parish council would be in receipt of this or if it would be for Hemel Hempstead. It was noted that this would depend on whether the money is 0-rated to CIL and that developer contributions could also come through Section 106, as done with some larger sites.


Cllr Stevens remarked on the consultation of the new planning regime and stated that they would be reforming Section 106 and doing away with CIL. The Chair advised that they are not at this point yet and it was noted that the discussion is regarding replacing the CIL with an Infrastructure Levy. Cllr Anderson queried if the parish element would be changed.


Cllr England referred to 4.4 in the report regarding improving the speed and effectiveness of the decision-making process and asked when funds would be available for decisions made by Cabinet. ARobinson advised that the proposal is to take the first round of bids to the next Cabinet meeting and that they are organising an advisory group to consider the first round of bids. The first round of bids will therefore be considered at the meeting on 14th February.


Cllr England remarked that £3m would be decided upon by next Cabinet. ARobinson noted that whilst they are proposing the release of £3m, the projects being assessed may not total this, and the decision may be that no projects progress to Cabinet.


Cllr England noted that full Council members were being removed and that members won't be involved in the decisions. The Chair noted that there are a number of internal structures where members are involved and that the democratic process is still in place. It was also noted that members can attend Cabinet meetings and ask questions. Cllr England noted that members would not have a vote. The Chair clarified that the original comment made by Cllr England was regarding members not being included and confirmed that they would be included in the process. It was noted that a particular step has been removed with the decision not going to full Council.


It was asked if there is cross-party membership of the IAG. It was confirmed there is not. ARobinson advised that the membership of the IAG is set out in the report. Cllr England commented that member voting has been removed and that there is no cross-party representation. The Chair commented that members had the opportunity to scrutinise the proposal during the meeting and could make a decision to not endorse the report.


Cllr England recommended that Scrutiny be chaired by the opposition. The Chair advised that the discussion was on the report and that any changes to Scrutiny would need to be taken up with the Leader of the Council.


Cllr Wilkie commented on releasing £3m just 8 weeks out of purdah. Cllr Foster acknowledged the reason behind wanting to release CIL and noted the issue of members not being part of the IAG and the decision going to Cabinet and not full Council. Whilst the reason to release to CIL is accepted, Cllr Foster noted that concerns regarding the removal of this step remains a concern.


Cllr Beauchamp proposed that if CIL is to be spent in a local ward or parish then local members should be part of the IAG. The Chair advised that this is not part of the governance criteria, though the amendment could be suggested.


JDoe noted that the IAG is a technical group and only acts in an advisory capacity.


The Chair noted that the concerns of council members should be discussed at Cabinet.


Cllr Wilkie asked how they can ensure that core CIL is being fairly distributed across the borough. ARobinson confirmed that the annual infrastructure funding statement will set out what projects are being considered by the IAG and which projects have been funded. ARobinson added that they have tried to set out ring-fenced money for different parts of the borough to mitigate the risk of projects in particular areas getting disproportionate levels of funding. The IAG is an advisory organisation and will make a recommendation to Cabinet who will accept, reject or amend recommendations.


The Chair noted that there is the opportunity for ward members to raise projects with SJayasinghe and that these may be fed into IAG.


The Committee noted the report and its recommendations.


Cllr Timmis asked if the discussions from the meeting would be included with the recommendations. The Chair advised that the recommendations are set out as written unless a vote is carried to add it as a recommendation, otherwise points are highlighted by the Portfolio Holder and the minutes will be available. The Chair stated that he would expect the Portfolio Holder to raise the potential concerns discussed. It was also noted that any member could attend Cabinet to raise their concerns.


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