Published on Wednesday 24 August 2011 The Star - Sheffield Newspaper
Town Hall bosses have set aside £2.5 million of council money for Sheffield’s controversial Park Hill flats redevelopment after the Government pulled funding.
The decision to dip into the authority’s dwindling coffers has been condemned by opposition Lib Dem councillors, who say a ‘posh’ private housing development should not be bailed out by council tax payers.
Sheffield Council’s Labour administration has earmarked £1.3m this year and £1.2m next year to provide security at Park Hill and rehouse tenants as the scheme progresses.
The money was previously to be provided by the Government’s Homes and Community Agency, which has withdrawn funding.
Coun Harry Harpham, Labour cabinet member for housing, said "none of the money would go on the redevelopment itself but would be spent on securing the site. There are additional costs relating to the Park Hill site which until recently were paid for by a government grant. These costs include looking after the empty flat blocks, providing security where the blocks are still lived in, funding police patrols and rehousing local residents. There is no question about whether or not these costs should be funded. It is the right thing to do to ensure that the local residents are safe and it is the council’s statutory duty to provide home loss payments to residents who are moving home."
Lib Dem housing spokeswoman Coun Alison Brelsford said "Labour had previously promised no council money would go on the scheme and insisted developers Urban Splash should pick up the extra costs."
She said: “From the start we warned that Park Hill had all the hallmarks of being a Labour Party vanity project that would end up costing local taxpayers. I’m sad to say that we have been proved right. Whilst we controlled the council we ensured that no extra taxpayer’s money was handed over to this project, after Labour signed off the original agreement. But this latest move goes directly against our commitment and Labour’s previous promise. This opens the door for local taxpayers to receive even more bills in future. I’m sure local taxpayers would agree with me that £2.5m would be spent on important local services rather than on posh flats. Labour should demand that Urban Splash picks up this extra cost. It is the shareholders who will be making the profit."
But Coun Harpham said: “This is nothing but political opportunism from the Liberal Democrats, who are again trying to mislead the public. This is not a broken promise by Labour and the Lib Dems know that not a penny of the £2.5m is to be spent on the refurbishment of the Park Hill flats. The Lib Dems also know it would not be reasonable to ask Urban Splash to foot the bill for this as ultimately this is the council’s responsibility.”