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Bid to unlock £130,000 funding pot for community projects

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Proposals to change the way in which funds from developers are allocated could unlock a funding pot of more than £130,000 for community projects across the borough.

Developers behind major schemes such as large housing developments in the borough have to contribute cash to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

It has already helped fund a number of projects, including a £200,000 flood management and drainage scheme at Delph Road and Turners Lane in Brierley Hill. Around £60,000 has also been allocated to Shell Corner Partnership to help improve footfall for local businesses, and more than £8,000 went to Black Country Radio to fund a new digital studio at the station.

But in a paper set to go before Dudley Council’s ruling cabinet, it reveals there is £133,341.65 of the Neighbourhood Funding element of CIL which has so far been unallocated.

The report says it is due to stringent processes that stipulate the monies for the Neighbourhood Funding element of CIL must be spent in the ward or community forum area where the development is taking place.

Council bosses are now proposing to relax that – and to instead share the monies equally across all wards and community forum areas to increase the chances of it being taken up.

The Neighbourhood Funding element makes up 15 per cent of all monies received from developers through CIL.

Examples of projects which might be eligible for funding include environmental improvements, public art, equipment for groups and initiatives to promote healthy living.

Councillor Ian Kettle, cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, said:

We currently have a pot of money available to be spent which has been given to us by developers to improve the borough. We only have so long to use it, and after that we have to return it to the developers by law.
We obviously don’t want to do that, we would much rather see it spent in our communities.
The problem with the current system is that it is too restrictive, and that in many cases there simply aren’t any projects in the ward areas that are suitable for the funding. As a result, it sits unspent and builds up.
By relaxing the strict criteria - which we can now do thanks to recent law changes - it will cut the red tape, allowing us to spend it on worthy projects and schemes.

Meanwhile in a separate paper also set to go before cabinet, councillors are being recommended to approve a proposal to set aside some of the cash generated through CIL for larger projects.

Nearly £600,000 has been allocated through the Capital and Infrastructure Funding element of the levy since its inception in 2015. It makes up 80 per cent of all CIL revenue and is for schemes which support growth or regeneration in the borough, or improve infrastructure.

But the paper reveals there are several key infrastructure projects in the borough with funding gaps of more than £1 million. Council bosses want to set aside 10 per cent of the monies generated from the levy to build up over time in a separate pot, to use to fund the more expensive projects.

Cabinet members are being asked to back both proposals at a meeting which takes place at 6pm on Thursday December 17 via Microsoft Teams.

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