Authority under fire over �2.6m cash stash
CRITICS last night rounded on a cost-cutting council after it emerged the authority had �2.6million holed away in cash given to it by developers.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council has recently come under fire for axeing toilet attendants in the Abbey Gardens and seeking to transfer responsibility for community centres as part of a �2.2million cost-cutting drive over the next two years.
It has also been accused of breaking its pledge to ensure a �6m five-metre wide link is built between the historic town centre and the new Arc shopping centre.
But following a request for details under the Freedom of Information Act, it has emerged that the authority is currently sitting on a pot of cash totalling �2.6m given to it by developers who have built in the borough.
The sum comes from developers in the form of section 106 contributions, in which those behind major projects are expected to give something back to the community – for example road improvements or educational facilities.
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The council said the cash pot could only be used for projects agreed with developers at the time the deals were signed.
But Independent councillor David Nettleton said some of the monies had been lying untouched for some time and demanded the council checked whether it could now be used for other purposes.
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He said: “The council is sitting on this money and I think they hoped nobody would notice it was there.”
He questioned whether the cash might have been used to part-fund the Market Thoroughfare link or to keep toilet attendants in post down at the Abbey Gardens.
However a spokeswoman for the council said the authority’s hands were tied as to how the cash it gets from developers is used. She said: “Section 106 agreements are negotiated for a specific purpose, usually to do with providing the infrastructure for a specific project or for mitigating its impact.
“It is not possible or necessarily appropriate for the council to unilaterally allocate ring-fenced Section 106 contributions to other projects without seeking a variation to the legal agreements that secured the contributions, which could only be undertaken with the consent of the original provider, and which would disadvantage other residents.”