I would like to take this opportunity once again to thank our local councils and councillors across the country for their resilience and hard work in this period of new national restrictions. We are providing more than £7 billion of funding directly to councils alongside our sales, fees and charges scheme, which we expect to also be worth well in excess of £1 billion this year. When it comes to the role that councils have played in protecting the most vulnerable in society—rough sleepers—their work has truly been world class. Last week, I announced the launch of the Protect programme, the next phase in our strategy, which has been widely praised as one of the most successful of its kind anywhere in the world. I thank local councillors in advance for the work they will do in the weeks to come. The Prime Minister and I have been clear that, despite the challenges we face, our mission to deliver the housing our country needs continues at pace. We have kept the market open in order to protect house building and ensure that we protect the millions of jobs that depend upon it.
We do not have the leasehold system in Scotland, yet as a result of rules drawn up with the English leasehold system in mind, each individual owner must get their own EWS1 assessment carried out. How does the Secretary of State intend to resolve this costly and bureaucratic system, which is clearly not fit for purpose in Scotland and which is causing such difficulty to my constituents affected by the ongoing cladding scandal? Will he arrange a socially distant meeting with me to discuss this further?
I would be very happy to meet the hon. Lady. The noble Lord Greenhalgh, the building safety Minister, and I have been meeting lenders and UK Finance to discuss the EWS1 form and to urge them to take a more proportionate, risk-based approach. The EWS1 form was, as we heard earlier, designed for those buildings over 18 metres with external wall systems. It is now being used for buildings below 18 metres and buildings without any cladding at all. That is causing misery to thousands of people across the country, and it needs to change.
My hon. Friend will know that my Department is working closely with the residents of Northpoint to ensure that they have access to funding. They are part of the building safety fund and will benefit from that £1.6 billion. He is right also to draw attention to the waking watch issue, which is increasingly a national scandal in itself; this is a rip-off. We have published research that demonstrates that some operators of these businesses—the contractors—are charging outrageous fees for very little. We will be reporting that to the regulatory authorities and we hope that they will clamp down on these practices as quickly as possible.
There is growing public concern that the Secretary of State may have misused taxpayers’ money from the £3.6 billion towns fund to boost the Conservative party’s general election campaign, but he can easily clear the matter up. Will he publish, in full, the accounting officer’s advice and the full criteria that he and the former Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry), used when they blocked funding for towns ranked among the 100 most deprived and instead funnelled millions of pounds to each other’s constituencies ahead of the general election?
The Department has already made it clear that a robust process was established—before I became Secretary of State. It was followed to the letter and we will not apologise for investing in communities that have been under-invested in and undervalued by the Labour party for generations. With respect to the accounting officer’s report, accounting officer assessments are not routinely published. That is a matter for the Department, which I am sure will consider it and reply to the Select Committee in due course. But I can assure the hon. Gentleman that he will not deter us from our mission to level up all parts of the country.
I can do that. My hon. Friend shares my belief that street homelessness is a crisis not just of housing, but of health, mental health and addiction as well. Our approach from the start of the pandemic has been not only to bring people in off the streets into safe and secure accommodation, but to ensure at all times that they have that wraparound support. That was part of the success of Everyone In and it is part of the Protect programme, and it learns from the enormous success of the Housing First pilots that we have initiated in parts of the country.
Last week, I met Mencap, which was extremely concerned about the lack of clarity on the shared prosperity fund. Disabled people have benefited enormously from the European social fund, but mere days out from crashing out of the transition period the Government are woefully silent on the future of this. So will the Secretary of State agree to meet myself and Mencap to outline a way forward for the shared prosperity fund and give disabled people clarity?
I would be happy to have that conversation. My officials have been engaging with officials with the devolved Administrations, from all nations of the United Kingdom. We have said time and again that further details of the shared prosperity fund will be published at the spending review, and the hon. Gentleman does not have long to wait for that.
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for the concern that she evinces in respect of this matter. I am happy to update her. The Government are providing a £10 million cold weather fund to all local authorities, to help them to bring forward self-contained accommodation this winter. Our new £15 million protect programme is providing dedicated funding to local areas with the highest numbers of rough sleepers. Alongside that there is a £2 million transformation fund to help faith and community centres to move away from night shelters and into more innovative and positive options for shelter guests. I was pleased that my right hon. Friend directed me towards our noble Friend Lord Bird; I am happy to continue to engage with him and her, as is the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst).
I thank the officers and councillors at Cheshire West and Chester Council for the hard work that they have done already and no doubt will do in the weeks ahead. We have provided a great deal of support to the council: total covid-19 additional funding is £25 million, and total funding from across Government is almost £39 million. As the hon. Gentleman says, that will be followed up by further funding from the sales, fees and charges scheme, which contributes 75p in the pound in respect of lost income for councils. I have also committed—I will say more on this at the spending review—to a similar scheme in respect of lost income for council tax and business rates.
My hon. Friend rightly points out the £11.5 billion that we have made available in the next five years to build 180,000 new affordable homes, a significant proportion of which will be for affordable or social rent. We have already heard about the £700 million or so in total that we are spending to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, and I direct my hon. Friend towards the abolition of the housing revenue account cap, which allows local authorities to build social homes if they wish to. It is a local authority matter and we encourage them to do so.
The situation in Croydon is deeply concerning. There does appear to have been catastrophic financial mismanagement. Ultimately, it is the people of Croydon who will suffer as a result of that failed council. The council has decided to issue a section 114 notice. We will consider the findings of the urgent review, which concludes later this month.
As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing has said repeatedly today, the funding that we have put into councils since the start of the pandemic —more than £7 billion—has been deployed taking deprivation into consideration to ensure that the councils that need the money the most have the greatest share. As we approach the spending review, I will, of course, be arguing for further funding for local authorities so that they are properly and sustainably financed in the year ahead.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the Second Reading of his Bill. We are looking to strengthen the powers and sanctions in respect of both heritage and planning enforcement as part of our White Paper reforms of the planning system. I am sure that he will be lobbying us to ensure that that is part of the wider package.
It is a shame that the hon. Gentleman makes party political points without understanding the facts, because no Minister in my Department has ignored the advice of their officials. The Department produced a robust process, which was followed by myself and any other Minister in the Department, so he should be careful before making wild and false accusations.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. She is a doughty campaigner for her constituents in Dover, and particularly, in this case, in Deal. She will know that the national planning policy framework makes it clear that local authorities should make provision for infrastructure, including water supply and energy, through their strategic planning authorities. As to what further we can do, our White Paper on planning reform proposes an infrastructure levy that will get that sort of infrastructure that she refers to in place at the get-go so that communities get not just the housing they need but the infrastructure to go with it.
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are very much sticking to our promise to support local authorities. We have already given local authorities more than £7 billion since the start of the pandemic, with the sales fees and charges and the business rates and council tax schemes. We are approaching £10 billion of additional support for local authorities, and in his case, in Ealing, it is £30 million, so he is quite wrong to say that we are not supporting his constituents.