A multi-million pound government windfall towards building 100,000 new homes in MK is still in the air this week due to political squabbles.
The deal, arranged by Labour leaders and senior council figures, was due to be announced by the Chancellor in last week’s Autumn budget.
But it was postponed at the eleventh hour due to “furious” objections from two Milton Keynes MPs Mark Lancaster and Iain Stewart.
They accused Labour of going behind their backs to negotiate secretly with the government.
The MPs, together with local Tories, say influx of new residents would clog up MK roads and overburden the already-stretched hospital.
But Labour say the government cash would go towards such infrastructure. Indeed the letter of offer from housing minister Kit Malthouse states: “The government will provide funding of up to £35m for infrastructure and to boost local capacity.”
Labour council leader Pete Marland has accused the MPs of “putting their own interest above the long term funding and sustainability of Milton Keynes.”
But MK North MP Mark Lancaster said: “I make no apologies for resisting Labour’s secret plans to concrete over rural North Bucks. I am, however, happy to work with the council to deliver sustainable growth following our ‘I before E’ or infrastructure before expansion’ model.”
“Iain and I will always fight for more money, but we can’t if we are kept in the dark.”
MK South MP Iain Stewart said: “We have over 20,000 new houses already approved and waiting to be built. Surely the focus should be on building these properly before rushing ahead with such significant accelerated growth?
He added: “As ever Labour have got this the wrong way round. The focus should be on business development and new jobs, then decide the housing and infrastructure needs. Rushing a deal together in just a couple months, failing to take any stakeholders along on the journey, using the arbitrary population figure of 500k within our own borders, without any evidence to suggest that is the number we need is deeply concerning.“I have long argued our future housing growth needs to be planned in the context of the Oxford-Cambridge as a whole; and we must work with our neighbours to develop a plan for the future.”
Leader of the MK Council Conservative group Councillor Alex Walker said: “There has long been a convention at Milton Keynes Council that on the big ticket items all parties will work together to achieve what is best for residents. Sadly, that seems to have been lost on this occasion.“Such a big decision requires careful and detailed planning, importantly taking residents along the journey.
He added: “This kind of accelerated growth will change MK beyond all recognition and will require far more than some new roads. What about hospital capacity, for example? What about all the homes neighbouring authorities are set to build too?
“Let’s get this right. As somebody still unable to get on the housing ladder, I know we need more housing and I know affordability is a real issue. But, I don’t want us to just be a housing ghost town, with dozens of identical new estates.”
Pete Marland said: “Milton Keynes has potentially lost out on hundreds of millions of pounds in funding for future growth and the possible development tens of thousands of genuinely affordable homes, after the town’s two Tory MPs undermined and blocked a deal between Labour-led Milton Keynes Council and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
“It is hugely worrying that two ill-informed Members of Parliament, including a government Minister, seem able to intervene in a local authority seeking to deliver established local council policy, for what appears to be self-serving party political reasons. It is not only a kick in the teeth for local democracy, it is a kick in the teeth for MK residents who desperately want to see more affordable housing, built in the best traditions of Milton Keynes.”
Pete added: “By continuing to block this deal the local Conservative Party and MPs are playing games with the future of the city. We know why. They don’t want growth and choose to hide behind concerns about infrastructure, when it is clear this deal would have helped deliver what is needed. It would have also included developing plans to deliver the tens of thousands of genuinely affordable homes our city needs, and an improved public transport system. It is an obvious case of NIMBY-ism, but it seems to be “Not In Mark’s Back Yard,” given it was local MP Mark Lancaster who objected to the millions in funding for MK.”
“We want MK to grow in a well-planned and sustainable way, not in the piecemeal fashion that is the risk under current Government policy. The housing deal would be the way to plan growth for the long term, enable the proper infrastructure to be funded and developed and protect our villages from speculative development. As Leader that is what I’ll continue to fight for, and we will continue to work with Government to achieve that, if they are still serious about growth in this region.”