CBC councillors clash over Dunstable housing site in feisty finance meeting

Two Conservative colleagues clashed in a case of crossed wires at a feisty council finance meeting.

The councillors argued about where local authority housing, planned for a site in Dunstable, should feature in Central Bedfordshire Council’s spending proposals.

Central Beds Council head office in Chicksands

Central Beds Council head office in Chicksands

Dunstable Icknield councillor David McVicar and Dunstable Central councillor Carole Hegley had their frank exchange of views during a corporate resources overview and scrutiny committee meeting.

Deputy leader of the council and Conservative Arlesey councillor Richard Wenham outlined the council’s housing revenue account (HRA) forecasts.

Councillor McVicar set the ball rolling with this observation: “I see there are funding allocations to Court Drive in Dunstable, which is the site of the health hub, and also to Vernon Place.

“But I don’t see how they fit into the HRA. Can someone explain why they’re in there?” he asked.

“I was told they weren’t particularly going to be social housing and that some of them are going to be affordable housing.”

Councillor Wenham replied: “It’s my understanding that the executive decided those sites would be developed by the HRA

“I understand it will be a mixture of accommodation for different uses.”

Conservative Dunstable Central councillor Carole Hegley referred to member briefings on the issue, based on the proposals for Court Drive, including the health hub and housing around it, which are identified as an HRA development.

“We’re not progressed sufficiently to hold an engagement event over Vernon Place.

“But we are considering plans for that site, allocated to the HRA as an investment opportunity.”

Councillor McVicar responded: “Sorry, that was never put forward in the proposals we saw originally about the development in the centre of Dunstable on these sites.

“It was never mentioned this was inside the HRA. I feel quite concerned about that.

“Affordable housing I have to go along with, but bringing the whole lot into social housing wasn’t originally on the agenda when we were given a presentation in Grove House, a while ago.”

Councillor Hegley, who’s the executive member for adults, social care and housing operations, retorted: “It would have been.

“That was explicit within the briefing. So I can’t understand why there is a confusion.”

Councillor McVicar answered: “I was understanding the flats around the health hub were an enabling development, not a social development.

“This seems to be somewhat under the radar in terms of the actuality of the situation.

“Hopefully, when councillor Hegley has her next briefing, there’ll be a bit more clarity and a bit more honesty in the situation.”

Councillor Hegley responded: “Sorry, chairman, I have to protest there.

“There was explicit understanding of the briefing I held at Grove House exactly as to what we were doing.

“Nick Costin presented the briefing and he is a member of housing.

“Our development at Priory View is an HRA affordable housing scheme.

“I have no qualms at all convincing our members that HRA can deliver very prestigious, good quality schemes.

“I can’t understand my colleague not understanding because I can’t understand the confusion when a housing officer made the presentation about that housing.”

Councillor McVicar said: “I think we’re getting mixed up with two separate meetings here.

“The latest meeting we had where Nick Costin made a presentation I would accept.

“But there were other presentations prior to that as to the future use of those sites in Dunstable.

“That was the briefing I was referring to. I will be quiet. We’ll take it offline, and pursue it elsewhere.”