Video: ‘I want other councils to follow Great Yarmouth’s lead’ - communities minister Eric Pickles in Norfolk
16:35 31 January 2014
Archant Norfolk © 2014
Cabinet minister Eric Pickles has said he wants local authorities to work together to be more efficient.
The secretary of state for communities and local government was visiting east Norfolk today, less than a week after Great Yarmouth Borough Council (GYBC) revealed the funding it will receive from Mr Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) would be £1m on this year’s grant.
The DCLG has indicated that GYBC’s funding for 2014/15 would be £7,023,364, a 13.8pc reduction on the £8,146,803 received in 2013/14, not including the efficiency support grant.
And while the Labour-led borough council has historically refused to share management with neighbouring authorities, Mr Pickles today said he wants to see more shared services.
“The last government abandoned a scheme which meant that Yarmouth was a bit be short of money, we’re protecting them from that but what we really want in return is for them to increase their efficiency, work better with adjoining authorities and reduce their cost,” said Mr Pickles.
In Caister-on-Sea this morning, Mr Pickles visited the first new council homes being built in the Yarmouth borough for 20 years.
A total of 12 homes are being built across the borough to an innovative energy-saving design - and Mr Pickles said Yarmouth was “leading the way” when it came to constructing affordable homes.
The project was allocated cash by Great Yarmouth Borough Council (GYBC) last year, with cash coming from tenants’ rents, developer contributions, the New Homes Bonus, and income from stock sold under the Right to Buy scheme.
“With another £23 billion public and private funding available from 2015, I want other councils to follow Great Yarmouth’s lead,” said Mr Pickles, who toured the site with Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, meeting local councillors and representatives from construction body Beattie Passive Norse.
“I am impressed. I’d heard about this form of construction; it’s a very cheap way of building but you’re going to have a very high quality of house.
“This represents something that, if we can reduce cost of construction, we can reduce the cost of a house which will mean more in the reach of what people can afford.”
Penny Linden, Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s cabinet member for communities and chair for community housing, welcomed the opportunity to highlight what is happening in Caister.
“He’s come here and he’s said that Yarmouth is leading the way regarding these houses and that’s thrilling,” she said.
“And there will be more. We’ve signed up to use Right to Buy funding and put it towards new builds and besides, now that we’re self financing we can manage our own affairs and house building is one of the affairs we’re very interested in.
“GYBC does own land and community housing owns land so we’re looking for sites like these where we can infill; modestly to begin with but hopefully we’ll look at larger sites as well.”
Later in the morning, Mr Pickles met independent traders at the Fusion Hair Consultants salon in Gorleston to hear how businesses owners are trying to revive the high street. Car parking, business rates and out of town competition were high on the agenda.
Speaking after, Mr Lewis said: “Gorleston is a brilliant example of traders coming together to get things done. The town has a six per cent under occupancy rate which is well below the national average of 12 per cent.
“But it’s not just the retail side, the reason we met at Fusion was partly because of the fantastic academy Kevin has set up here, training the entrepreneurs of the future.”