COUNCILS that have welcomed growth are getting a major boost to their spending power, says the government.
Housing minister Mark Prisk said the final allocation of cash payouts worth £668m through the government's New Homes Bonus, would be shared by England's 353 councils.
The funding will reward councils for delivering over 142,000 new homes, including 58,000 affordable properties, and bringing back into use almost 18,000 empty properties.
Encouraging growth was a positive way for councils to raise revenue for their local community, said Mr Prisk on Friday (1 February).
The cash payments are rewarding councils from all parts of the country, with almost a third of the top 30 recipients in the midlands and north of England.
They include Leicestershire County Council, which allocated its bonus grant for delivering more rural housing, helping to develop 12 new affordable homes in Sapcote
The council is also investing £1m to help deliver 60 new homes, for rent or shared ownership schemes in villages, so families and youngsters are not forced to move away by high prices.
In total, the final allocation – to be paid during the 2013-2014 financial year – means councils will have received £1.3bn through the New Homes Bonus since its launch in April 2011.
Mr Prisk said: "This country needs to build more homes, and that's why the government is giving communities a reason to say 'yes' to growth through the New Homes Bonus.
"We're backing those councils that build the homes people need."
Encouraging the construction of affordable housing and bringing back long-term empty homes into use was "good news for councils, communities and families," said Mr Prisk.
Through the New Homes Bonus, the government matches the council tax raised from new homes for six years.
The bonus is also available for reducing the number of long-term empty homes, and there is an additional £350 annual premium for new affordable homes.
Councils are encouraged to work with their local community to decide how the bonus is spent.
It might be on more homes, keeping down council tax, boosting frontline services like rubbish collection or providing local facilities like swimming pools and leisure centres.
A full list of allocations of New Homes Bonus for the 2013 to 2014 financial year can be found on the government's policy page.
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