Council condemned for stashing £13m

PUBLISHED: 09:30 07 January 2013

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(c) Adam Gault

NORTH Somerset Council has been accused of having more than £13million ‘squirreled away’ in its coffers while vital services are being ‘squeezed across the board’.

The Mercury can reveal the authority has the money sitting in the bank, with millions of pounds more heading for the same account.

The £13.214million was given by developers as part of section 106 agreements to the authority, which has hit the headlines for the drastic cuts it is being forced to make to lifeline services as part of a major budget trimming exercise. It comes from payments that are made towards the cost of things like new schools, improved leisure services, transport and highway improvements or more affordable housing as part of new developments.

Although £4.294million in the section 106 pot is committed to capital projects this year and next year and a further £4.051million for 2014/15 and beyond, another £12.556million is heading towards the account, subject to the completion of already-approved schemes.

North Somerset councillor Mike Bell told the Mercury this week that in addition developers owe the council more than £2million in section 106 agreements, the largest of which being £1.517million from Locking Castle West for a January 2011 invoice.

Cllr Bell said: “These figures show how important the section 106 contributions from developers are to the council coffers.

“What is worrying is that we can see two problems.

“Firstly we see developers using every trick in the book to try to avoid paying the amounts due on time, often years after developments have been completed.

“Secondly we also see the council being too slow to invest this money in improvements.

“To have more than £13million sitting in the bank when services are being squeezed across the board is unacceptable.

“The council has got to get its act together.

“It needs to take a tougher stance in tackling developers and be more creative in investing this money, quickly, to benefit local communities.”

Tony Lake, the council’s executive member for finance, said: “Section 106s are legal agreements to cover specific requirements resulting from development in a particular area.

“More than £8million in section 106 money is being spent on capital projects up to and beyond 2014. Another £4million is ongoing costs which will be spent over a much longer period of time (up to 15 years).

“While the total potential section 106 receipts on development schemes we have approved is some £12.5million, these are calculated on all planning obligations being met by developers (for example the number of dwellings to be built) so they are not guaranteed sums of money.

“We continue to pursue those developers who still owe us money.”


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