Leicestershire County Council says it needs £600m to cope with rapidly growing population
Hundreds of millions are needed for new roads and schools and other vital infrastructure.
Council bosses are worrying about how to find hundreds of millions of pounds needed to pay for new roads and schools to cope with Leicestershire’s spiralling population growth.
Currently just under 700,000 people live in the county, but projections say that number will rise by 16 per cent over the next 25 years – largely due to people living longer.
Leicestershire County Council says some £600 million will be needed to pay for new roads and schools to accommodate new housing and businesses.
County Hall expects to need a further 22 schools, at a cost of £200 million – the rest of the money needed for enhancing Leicestershire’s road and transport network.
The council plans to set up a team – a growth unit – of officers dedicated to securing the money both through bids to the Government and from developers who will build some 200,000 homes required in the county by 2050.
The growth unit will cost tax-payers £500,000 a year but county council leader Nick Rushton insists it will be money well spent.
He said: “This is quantum growth (in population) and it needs a quantum change in how we address developments.
“Out of that 16 per cent, 11 per cent will be older people and five per cent will be younger people so we need to be really proactive in responding to developments to make sure we get the roads, the community facilities in the right place at the right time.
“We are not just talking about roads and schools. We need green infrastructure, we need community infrastructure.
“It’s not just about tarmac and concrete.”
‘Mega developers will hold us to ransom’
The leader said the growth unit would help County Hall and would also be able to assist smaller district councils in handling planning issues for major developments.
He added: “In some areas there just isn’t the officer core to deal with these mega developments and mega developers who, if we are not careful, will hold us all to ransom.
“We need to ensure we get the money off them thar they rightfully need to spend to make sure the growth is mitigated and acceptable to the rest of us who are already here.”
He added: “We need to find another £600 million over the next 25 years so we need a co-ordinated growth unit which can drive the mitigation.”
Deputy council leader and finance spokesman for the council, Byron Rhodes, said: “Huge amounts of money is needed in future years to cope with the expansion of Leicestershire – both with the number of people who live here and the expansion of economic activity required to sustain future population.”
He said the Government used to allow the council to borrow money for such work while guaranteeing the interest payments.
He added: “Now if we go out and borrow we have to find the interest.
“There are grants from the Government but on the basis that if we have a project they will pay for it. We have to bid for it.
“There’s never quite enough money to go round because they are always over-subscribed.
“£600 million is an awful lot to fund.”
Coun Rhodes said there was concern the council wouldn’t actually get enough from Section 106 contributions to cover the full costs so it is proposed to set up a new pot of cash, shared with district councils to build up a reserve and contingency fund.
All the councils would contribute funds, such as New Homes Bonus cash and business rates, which could be drawn upon if there is a shortfall in cash from the Government and developers.