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Cambridgeshire councils find multi million windfalls ‘on the Horizon’

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It was set up in 2004 and closed seven years later when funding was stopped – but for 12 years has sat on a pile of cash.

But no longer, for dissolution of Cambridgeshire Horizons Ltd has secured a multi-million-pound windfall for Cambridgeshire councils.

Two councils have so far announced receipt of the money.

East Cambs revealed last summer it had been given £2m – and immediately put in place measures to spend it on community projects.

However, Fenland Council only announced it had a £2.3m windfall before Christmas – and declined to answer questions on what they had planned for it.

All were part of Cambridgeshire Horizons which had been set up to ‘grow’ the county.

“Coordinating growth on such a grand scale is quite a challenge and can only be achieved through effective management and commitment on the part of everyone involved,” said its mission statement.

“In 2004, Cambridgeshire Horizons was established in recognition of the fact that no single existing agency or authority could be expected to implement this planned growth on its own.”

It had five core objectives which included co-ordinating development and infrastructure, securing, and managing funding, and ensuring “high quality sustainable design”.

Cllr Chris Boden: “We are not in the habit of always necessarily putting out publicity which I have to say some members might think is party political.”

When the Government ended the funding in 2011, so did Cambridgeshire Horizons.

And until 2022 the cash in the bank stayed there – but no longer.

Cllr Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambs District Council, was first to announce the cash windfall – and promptly revealed how it would be spent.

She announced last July the formation of a £2million “growth and infrastructure fund to support sustainable projects that improve the quality of life for residents.

“The money utilises money the council has received from Cambridgeshire Horizons.

“Cambridgeshire Horizons is a company that holds historical funds, originally received from central Government, to deliver projects that support growth in the county.”

Working with other council leaders, Cllr Bailey said she had been able to negotiate funds from Cambridgeshire Horizons “to benefit East Cambridgeshire specifically.

“We know there are lots of fantastic ideas out there that with a little bit of funding can deliver some really good and sustainable benefits for our local residents.

“This fund is providing those organisations, clubs, or parish councils with the opportunity to make that happen.

“We are really open-minded around how the money is spent, providing it’s for a capital project that supports the growth of the district and benefits local residents.”

Applicants were told they needed to match fund a minimum of 10 per cent of the total project costs and should commit to an environmentally friendly approach.

By November she was able to reveal that nine projects had been awarded a share of the £2m funding that the council had by then upped with an additional £300,000.

She said the finance and assets committee was “so impressed with the high calibre of the nine projects which met the criteria for funding, they agreed to add a further £300,000 to the budget so all could be funded”.

£800,000 was offered to Soham Town Council for the Soham to Wicken cycleway.

£250,000 towards adapting the footbridge linking Wicken Fen with Burwell Lodge.

£124,056 towards extending Spencer Mill in Soham to create an apprenticeship, trainee and learning hub for the Viva Arts and Community Group.

£51,350 for the refurbishment and soundproofing of the main hall and lounge areas at Soham Town Rangers Football Club.

£700,000 to Stretham Parish Council towards the cost of a new Community Hub and GP rooms at Plantation Gate, Stretham.

£191,935 for Witchford Playing Fields Association towards the cost of expanding its halls to create new changing facilities for sports clubs and a flexible space for indoor activities.

£63,000 to Little Thetford Village Hall towards the cost of converting its hall so it runs on renewable energy from solar panels.

£105,000 to Bottisham Parish Council for the purchase of land for a new cemetery

£22,265 has been awarded to Isleham Community Association towards the cost of a commercial kitchen.

However, in Fenland, the council remains coy about what it is doing with its windfall.

Opposition spokesperson Cllr Mike Cornwell quizzed council leader Chris Boden and asked how much Fenland had received. And why had they not publicised it.

Cllr Boden began by explaining that “I was instrumental in ensuring monies lying unused for the best part of nine years were made available to the constituent councils”.

He said he was also the individual who proposed the way the money was distributed “and for Fenland that is quite favourable”.

He said the council received a total of £3.35m in total, of which £1.05m will need to be repaid over 25 years to the Department of Transport.

That left some “£2.3m or available for various specified objectives, consistent with objectives of Cambridgeshire Horizons”.

He said Fenland had ended up in the same position as East Cambs Council.

But he was pushed by Cllr Cornwell as to “why did east Cambs Council get all the publicity?”.

Cllr Boden replied: “We are not in the habit of always necessarily putting out publicity which I have to say some members might think is party political.

“We achieved what we needed to achieve, no need to publicise it, but will spend it wisely.”

 

 

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