Council bosses in Fenland to find new ways to provide affordable housing and investment
Council leader Chris Boden pledged to find new ways to provide affordable housing in Fenland after admitting the current system “is broken”.
He was addressing the overview and scrutiny committee of Fenland Council as it held its annual 'state of the nation' meeting with both the leader and with the chief executive Paul Medd.
Both agreed there was not a "simple solution" to Fenland's "disappointing" affordable housing figures - but that they were working with other authorities for advice on how to move forward.
Cllr Boden said: "The system with affordable housing is broken.
"What we have at the minute does not work, so we will be coming up with a number of different methods to make it work which could be changes to ownership and way of construction.
"We are working with other authorities than just Fenland.
"This is not something we are being passive about but we are doing this aggressively.
"There are not any simple solutions but a number of different things will be tried to get these numbers up.
"This is a problem across the nation and we need to look at different types of ways we can deliver these houses."
During the meeting both the leader and chief executive promised "significant investment" into the district while stepping up efforts to get more affordable housing.
A "pipeline of savings" is set to fill the financial void in Fenland over the next four years including a six figure sum of money to be brought in from a new investment strategy, it was revealed.
Members also pressed on making sure that any financial deficits were met in the longer term.
But Cllr Boden remained hopeful, reassuring that "the coming years of 2021, 22 and beyond were very much in his mind".
He said: "We are going to deliver a pipeline of savings in future years.
"This is not a promise that there will be no increase in council tax it's an assumption so that we have a baseline of 0 rather than an increase.
"We will have a commercial investment strategy which will get significant investment which will lead to a six figure sum along with a one-off windfall in November."
Concerns were raised about the money that is spent on any future external expertise for projects, but Cllr Boden boasted "I don't think there is much beyond our capabilities".
"We are also having on-going talks with businesses that might set up or relocate to Fenland," he added.
The council's key achievements were also presented with chair Cllr Alex Miscandlon praising FDC for their "excellent attitude".
Mr Medd said that significant upgrades to three rail stations in the Fens were being discussed.
He said: "We will continue to move forward.
"The big thing for us has been the amount of external funding over the past two to three years.
"We are also looking at significantly upgrading three stations in the Fens.
"Apprenticeships are also incredibly important, but it is not just the funding for the training it's the cost of paying the individuals that we want bringing in."
FDC already has already has apprentices in administration, HR and accountancy roles.
Cllr Booth emphasised that there needed to be more of a link between recognising what happens in the villages and towns.
"There needs to be more of a balance," he said.
Cllr Rob Skouding, who is also mayor of March, raised his concern about Wisbech Port.
"We are aware that there has been a drop in vessels coming in," Cllr Boden said.
"There are considerable conversations on where we are and what could change there.
"We are looking at the whole asset to get things better for everyone."
Protecting the Fenland countryside, nature and reducing our carbon footprint was also said to be part of the local plan.
The committee approved minutes of their previous meeting when Cllr Gavin Booth had asked if they council could done more in relation to housing enforcement.
Cabinet member Cllr Sam Hoy said that while a 'tougher' approach could have been taken, the council had focused on educating landlords as opposed to taking enforcement action initially.