£12m hidden council cash unspent

AN INTERNAL investigation has revealed that North Somerset Council has a massive £12million in its bank account meant for spending across the community

AN INTERNAL investigation has revealed that North Somerset Council has a massive £12million in its bank account meant for spending across the community.The cash, which could make the council a staggering £1,479 a day in interest alone, has been collected as a result of 106 planning agreements with developers.If the money is not spent within a particular time scale it has to be handed back to the developer, along with the interest accrued.The £12m pot came to light during an inquiry by the council's Strategic Planning and Economic Development Scrutiny Panel.The cash is collected from developers to be spent on creating infrastructure and community facilities to go with houses.The authority, now in Conservative control, currently has 800 section 106 agreements in place, but most of the money is yet to be spent.It is understood that a massive £4.42million remains earmarked - and unspent - under the heading of community use in Weston alone.There is around £1.2m to spend on parks and open spaces, with a further £2m for highways, and local education services should benefit by £1.4m.Another £2m is available for affordable housing, £35,000 for bus stops and bus routes along with £200,000 for local libraries.In Portishead, £1m has been put in place for rail development, which could be used to open the train link out of town.It is understood the 106 payments are ring-fenced for specific types of projects, but the interest can be used by officers to support the authority's revenue budget, such as staffing costs or consultants' fees.Urgent questions are now being asked as to why the money is still sitting untouched in the council coffers.A councillor told the Mercury: "Some of the 106 agreements are three years old. Over £100,000 was banked from Weston Football Club in 2004, which needs to be spent within the next two years or the council will lose it."The reason being given by officers for hoarding the cash is that they do not have the manpower to progress the schemes so residents suffer as they do not go ahead."A report investigating the hidden millions is due to be presented to a meeting of the full council on Tuesday.


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