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Building our way out of the Housing Shortage?

In the latest in our 'Home Truths' investigation series, we continue our look at housing in the East - the conflict between the need for more homes, and the desire to protect the environment.

The government's laid out plans to build up to three new garden cities to deal with the chronic housing shortage in the South East, calling for local councils to volunteer for development.

Click below to watch a report for the West of the region

Click below to watch a report for the East of the region

Read more: New towns coming to a village near you?

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Home Truths: Elodie Harper examines the changing housing market in the East

An investigation by ITV News has found foreign investors are buying up properties in Cambridge and leaving them empty to make a profit.

With so many people desperate to get a foot on the ladder, the head of housing at Cambridge City Council has called the revelation 'abhorrent'

Properties in Cambridge are among the most in demand in the country, with only London prices higher.

In the first of our series Home Truths, Elodie Harper examines the changing housing market in the East.

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Essex Fire Service to raid reserves to pay £15m debt following accounting error

A fire engine.
Essex fire service has announced it will have to raid its reserves to repay a £15m debt. Credit: Press Association Images.

Essex fire service has announced it will have to raid its reserves to repay a £15m debt to the government - because of an accounting error.

The miscalculation dates back to 2006 when changes to financial arrangements for injury payments to retired firefighters were made.

Essex Fire Authority said an underpayment was missed despite annual independent auditing. The service racked up a shortfall of £1.8m a year since 2006.

It is understood several other fire services are investigating similar underpayments and the county's fire chief warned that other fire authorities may not be in a position to meet the unexpected bill easily.

Acting chief fire officer Adam Eckley said: "Because of our prudent financial management over the last few years we have built up significant reserves and we are in a healthy financial position and able to wipe out this debt immediately."

"This is a significant burden but unlike other fire and rescue services that will likely face a similar financial challenge, the fire authority has the cash to pay while remaining financially sound. "Essex is still far better off than many fire authorities nationwide who have already had to look to job cuts and station closures to balance their books."

– Adam Eckley, Acting Chief Fire Office, Essex Fire and Rescue Service.

But the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) insists it is too early to say what the full impact of the mistake will be.

A spokesman accused Essex Fire Service of "jumping the gun" and said further discussions had to take place.

"Essex have jumped the gun, given absolutely no decision has been made on this issue, and it is something that the department will be discussing with the fire authority in more detail in due course."

– Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman.

The payments relate to firefighters who have left the service since 1992 and were given early access to their pensions because of an injury suffered in the line of duty.

Accounts have been submitted to the Audit Commission and DCLG each year but both failed to pick up on the liability, the Essex Fire Authority said.

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