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GP practices miss out on millions in funding from housing developments

Exclusive A number of local authorities are failing to give GP surgeries a share of the infrastructure funding they receive from housing developers, a Pulse investigation can reveal.

Thirty-five councils that responded to Pulse’s freedom of information request said they collected a total of £61.5m from housing developers between 2013/14 and 2016/17 through the community infrastructure levy (CIL). The levy rate is set by councils and the money is intended to support local services, including medical facilities.

But none of the councils that responded has spent a single penny of these funds – generated from the construction of at least 18,400 homes – on GP practices. Thirteen said they had collected no CIL money at all so far.

Some local authorities have said they are building practices in newly developed areas by other means, including through the NHS Estates and Technology Transformation Fund or direct funding from housing developers themselves.

GP leaders expressed disappointment at the lack of funding for practices, but suggested the CIL could become ‘a significant capital stream in the future’.

Under the levy, councils set a rate for housing developers based on local infrastructure needs ‘to support the development of an area’, which includes ‘medical facilities’ as well as roads, schools, sports facilities and open spaces.

But councils have told Pulse the legislation, implemented in 2010, does not force them to spend any of the money on general practice and they have prioritised other areas of need.

Councils have used the CIL’s flexibility to boost areas such as education and leisure facilities. For example:

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• Hackney, in east London, has collected £6.6m through the levy since 2015/16, but a spokesperson said this was ‘a relatively small pot of money, and if it was spread too thinly it wouldn’t achieve very much’. The council decided the funding would be spent on ‘things such as education’. It is in talks about funding GP practices ‘through other sources’ yet to be decided.

• Richmond, in the south-west of the capital, has earmarked funding for transport, education, parks, waste, and sport and leisure facilities, but not primary care. A spokesperson said the funding is supporting ‘the delivery of priorities identified in the local plan’.

• Bracknell Forest, in Berkshire, has collected £2.53m through the levy since 2015/16, but a spokesperson said the council had agreed CIL funds should be used to support investment in a new school in the area.

Other councils also said although they have not spent CIL cash on general practice, they aim to fund development of practices through other means.

Brent Council, in north-west London, which has collected £1.2m since 2013/14, said practices are being funded directly by developers in the borough as part of housing projects ‘leaving CIL funds for other infrastructure priorities’.

Dr Ian Hume, premises lead on the BMA’s GP Committee, acknowledged the figures are ‘disappointing’ but remained optimistic.

He said: ‘I think it’s disappointing that there appears to be little CIL money coming in but I’m aware that’s likely to change and I think it will be a significant capital stream in the future. The GPC is pushing for more infrastructure spending and any funds from the levy would mean other money could be spent in other ways.’

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