£13m ‘sat’ in council coffers

PUBLISHED: 08:00 16 May 2016

Archant

North Somerset Council is sitting on more than £13million of unspent cash which has been set aside for community improvements – and says it does not yet know what a third of the money will be spent on.

Section 106 money refers to cash given to the council by housebuilders to mitigate the impact of developments and provide investment for things like schools, roads and other community projects.

Figures obtained by the Mercury reveal the council currently has £13,600,326 of this money in the bank – yet only £8,951,669 is allocated for specific future projects.

The council says the money represents invoices, rather than payments, and added s106 cash often forms part of a larger funding package needed to get a project up and running.

However, a council spokesman refused to comment when the Mercury asked for an explanation of why the authority had not spent this money and for an outline of its plans for the cash which has been earmarked for specific projects.

The council’s stance has been criticised by the district’s Liberal Democrat leader and Weston central ward councillor Mike Bell, who demanded the authority hold developers to account over delayed payments.

Cllr Bell said: “We are being told the council does not have much money and cannot invest in things like play equipment, or stuff for schools, but at the same time there are millions in the bank earmarked for exactly these projects.

“There are a lot of examples of where arrangements are reached, but money does not come for years. That is compounded by examples of where it is sat in a bank and (the council) is not spending it.

“I think it has been raised on numerous occasions and we never seem to get satisfactory answers. If it is because developers do not have the money, the council should be challenging them publicly and holding them to account.

“It was the same with Locking Castle and Weston Villages – there were promises of what would be provided, and it has taken decades to catch up with what was promised.

“They have got to put the meat on the bones, particularly when there is money in the coffers and they are sitting on it, not spending it.

“This should be information which is openly available so groups and people, as well as councillors, can challenge it openly.”

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