Goverment provides a grant, council gets the blame

Another council has become the victim of Daily Mail lies: ‘Fury as council spends £900,000 on refurbishing a travellers’ site‘. The article claims that:

A council came under fire today over plans to spend nearly £900,000 refurbishing a travellers’ site.

Conservative-controlled Cambridgeshire County Council owns Blackwell Farm, a 15 plot site near Milton, which is inhabited by 65 travellers.

Naturally, the Mail gets some thoughts from tabloid favourites the TaxPayers Alliance:

Emma Boon, campaign director for TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the council risks creating ‘resentment’ from other areas of the community.

She said: ‘This is a big wedge of cash to spend at a time when the Council and the Government is supposed to be looking for ways to make savings.

‘Clearly, the council has to provide some pitches and they have to meet certain standards, but this spending amounts to tens of thousands of pounds for each plot, it looks excessive.

‘When so much money is targeted towards one particular group in the community it risks breeding resentment among other local taxpayers, especially at a time when other parts of the community feel they are being hit by cuts.’

There is just one small problem with this: the council are not funding the project. In real terms, they are not spending anything at all:

The site is owned by Cambridgeshire County Council and managed by South Cambridgeshire District Council, but the work is being funded by a £894,000 grant from the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency…

Mike Davey, from the county council, said the money could only have been spent on improving traveller sites.

So, it was a government grant that the council received that could only be spent on this project. It also needs to be mentioned that these travellers pay rent and taxes and that the site is classed as council stock, so they have to maintain as they would any other council property. Furthermore, the project aims to make the site self-funded, so in the long run the project aims to save money and will make the travellers less likely to set-up illegal camps. Surely, in the eyes of the Mail, this is a good thing. The last detail in the article reminds me of a story that Littlejohn covered a while back:

Last year there were plans to apply for funding to erect a sound barrier along the site perimeter to shut out the din of the A14, but this has been dropped.

I wonder if he will resist a follow-up story?

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