Council house boost for Norwich

Sarah HallCouncil leaders in Norwich today welcomed a new deal which will give City Hall far more freedom to fund and run its council homes - as well as building new ones.Sarah Hall

Council leaders in Norwich today welcomed a new deal which will give City Hall far more freedom to fund and run its council homes - as well as building new ones.

Housing Minister John Healey yesterday set out plans to dismantle the current (Housing Revenue Account subsidy) system of funding council housing in 177 local authority areas - including Norwich.

The deal will release at least 10pc more money in every council for maintaining and managing their homes and enable more than 10,000 new council homes to be built across the country.

Local authorities have long criticised the HRA subsidy system and called for reform and the new proposals will wipe away the current system and set up a new devolved self-financing settlement.

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Under the new scheme councils will keep all the rent they collect from their homes and all the receipts from any sales of houses or land, with not a single penny going to Whitehall.

In return councils will accept a share of an additional �3.65bn debt, although the government insists no council will take on a level of debt that is not sustainable for the long term.

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Brenda Arthur, executive member for housing at Norwich City Council, which owns about 15,900 council homes, said: 'In the past we have been very good at obtaining money to build council houses again and this will mean in the future we will have greater capacity for how we develop local authority housing.'

Mrs Arthur said she did not yet know how much the city council would get - or how much share of the debt it would have to shoulder, but said it would improve housing services for the council house tenants.

But she said: 'Given that we are the 13th largest social housing provider in the country, this is good news for us.'

The city council built its last housing in the early 1990s and has been restricted in increasing numbers of housing stock since then largely due to the constraints of building within the Housing Revenue Account.

However, in January, the city council said the first new council homes in years would be built within the next two years after the city council was awarded more than �600,000 for a pioneering scheme to kickstart building.

The money will be used to build 10 homes on council land currently occupied by garages in Bowers Avenue, Mile Cross and a single home in Stafford Street in the Golden Triangle.

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