Controversial housing contract in Milton Keynes lined up for the chop

    A controversial partnership between Milton Keynes Council and a private housing giant is on course to be killed off.

    For the ruling Labour group it means taking back control of housebuilding and regeneration but the opposition Conservatives want their opponents to “take responsibility” for four years of “failure”.

    Conservative leader Cllr Alex Walker (Stantonbury) said: “Labour, for political reasons, set out to destroy YourMK from the word go. And they’ve lost hundreds of thousands of tax payers money in the process.

    “Progress on the regeneration programme remains desperately slow. The council needs to open its eyes and take its responsibility for failing to deliver on a project that would’ve levelled up Milton Keynes and improved the life chances for residents in our most disadvantaged estates.”

    Council leader Pete Marland (Lab, Wolverton) says MK Council won’t lose anything from the move.

    Labour set up the partnership with Mears in 2016 but stripped it of some powers in 2018 following a residents’ revolt over regeneration.

    “They put in £500,000 originally and want that back, but MKC won’t ‘lose’ anything as there are funds in the YourMK account,” Cllr Marland said.

    “And they want paying for the work they’ve done, which is fair as if we’d have had those done by anyone else there would have been a cost.”

    He added that wrapping up the partnership is “cost neutral” but suits both the council and Mears as “Your MK isn’t really performing any function”.

    Cllr Marland added that most residents won’t notice any changes if and when the contract ends.

    A report is set to be considered at Thursday’s meeting of the regeneration scrutiny committee. In the report council officers describe how circumstances have changed.

    Since YourMK was established, the Conservative Government has given councils more power to borrow money to build their own houses.

    The council wants to build 500 of its own homes but progress has been slow, including on regeneration estates at Bletchley’s Lakes Estate, and in Fullers Slade.

    “In the four years following the formation of YourMK the fiscal world local authorities work in has fundamentally changed,” says the report to Thursday’s meeting.

    “In October 2018 the then secretary of state, James Brokenshire, removed the borrowing cap imposed on local authorities’ housing revenue accounts.

    “This change puts us in a much stronger financial position to develop an increased level of council housing, something that we were unable to do previously.”

    The contract is under discussion between the council and Mears and officers are working towards making a delegated decision on disbanding it at a meeting on July 21.

    Mears was invited to respond to the issue on Monday but had not responded by 11am on Tuesday.

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