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Councillors air concerns over proposed housing company in West Suffolk

Picture - Richard Marsham'Forest Heath District Council Offices in Mildenhall ANL-151017-195936009
Picture - Richard Marsham'Forest Heath District Council Offices in Mildenhall ANL-151017-195936009

Members of two West Suffolk councils have expressed mixed feelings towards a proposal to set up a housing company together.

At an overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday, October 15 members of St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District Councils discussed the plan to set up and fund a housing development company in conjunction with Suffolk County Council.

But many expressed concerns over the proposed governance of the scheme, which would see a directorial board of four council officers and three others members oversee the company’s activities.

Cllr Julia Wakelam, a critic of the proposed structure, said: “A lot more detail should be forthcoming before any decision is made.”

Cllr Jim Thorndyke argued the proposed system was ‘too unaccountable’, while Cllr Angela Rushen worried about inexperienced council officers being elected to the board.

The committee eventually agreed to recommend the plans with the added proviso that the three extra board members would be appointed ‘on their expertise alone’.

Some councillors stressed the importance of the scheme delivering affordable housing.

Cllr Rushen said: “We have to show sympathy towards our residents and have to house them in the sort of homes they can afford.”

Cllr Jeremy Farthing said he was ‘very keen’ to see the scheme’s affordable housing delivered.

He said: “Any mechanism which will help us deliver the right kind of housing for our people has to be supported.”

While in favour of the plan, Cllr Simon Cole said a proposed caveat of reviewing the company’s business plans annually was ‘very important’.

The scheme is due to be debated by the district councils’ cabinets on October 27.


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