Barnet Council has been handed an £8.2million bonus from the Government for building more than 1,500 new homes in 2013.

The Tory-run authority has received the money as part of the New Homes Bonus – a cash incentive for local authorities to build new homes.

The amount given to councils depends on the increase in council tax revenue from the new builds, as well as bonuses for providing affordable housing.

Councillor Tom Davey, Conservative cabinet member for housing, says the cash from previous years has been “invaluable” for providing infrastructure support to the 1,634 new homes built in Barnet last year, as well as helping bring empty properties back in to use.

But Labour group leader Cllr Alison Moore believes the money could have been better used to provide more affordable housing.

Speaking about how the bonus is spent in Barnet, Cllr Davey said: “The New Homes Bonus has been invaluable in supporting Barnet’s approach to building new homes.

“It is enabling us to put infrastructure and public realm improvements into place that are beneficial to existing as well as new residents.

“We are looking to use some of the funding to bring forward highways works at West Hendon by four years and to give West Hendon Broadway a boost.

“It has also allowed us to fund the work of the empty homes team, which has been targeted with bringing 100 properties back into use as affordable housing.”

Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer is a member of Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles’ ministerial team, which devised the policy.

He said: “I am delighted that the bonus is having a direct effect on the number of homes being built here in Barnet. The cash provided shows the Government is committed to supporting the delivery of housing, which plummeted under the previous government.”

But Barnet's Labour group said it remained sceptical over whether the cash is being put to best use.

Group leader Cllr Moore said: “In all of the (council estate) regeneration projects they are barely, if at all, replacing the affordable homes.

“Over the past ten years, the affordable housing offer has been eroded and it has led to a huge deficit.

“They have been quite cagey at times about what they’ve spent this money on and I’m genuinely sceptical about its use.

“They could have used this to kick start some of the regeneration projects and underwrite some of the affordable homes, of which there has been precious little built. It is something we will be keeping our eye on.”