Councils sit on more than £20million

SUFFOLK councils are sitting on millions of pounds of money which should be used for community projects and improvements, the EADT has learned.

Anthony Bond

SUFFOLK councils are sitting on millions of pounds of money which should be used for community projects and improvements, the EADT has learned.

A Freedom of Information request has found that the region's councils are holding a combined fortune of £24.2m - with Suffolk County Council holding £12.558m.

The money has been paid by developers under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 for community projects and improvements.

It remains unclear how much of the money has been allocated for specific schemes. The figures provided to the EADT were on the basis the cash had not been earmarked for anything - although a number of authorities have since changed their stance and said it is.

However, they came under fire last night for the delay in spending the cash.

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Mark Wallace, campaign director of TaxPayers' Alliance, said: “It is obviously not ideal if not only are there delays in transfer of this money but if councils are having to delay projects because they are dependant on it.

“It is all very well saying that it is earmarked but if this money is being salted away then we need to know how long for and guarantees of what is going to happen with it. The events of recent weeks should drive home the fact that it is simply not wise for councils to stash tens of millions of pounds in bank accounts.”

The figures reveal that Suffolk Coastal District Council is holding almost £3.5m while Ipswich Borough Council's total is almost £3m.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “The £12.5m figure covers a number of developments over a number of years.

“We secure section 106 contributions against development proposals across Suffolk and usually have a period of time in which to spend the money against particular service areas. For example, we usually have a period of about 10 years from completion of a development within which to spend contributions on local schools. For example, the new Cedars Park primary school at Stowmarket has only recently opened despite the new housing development at Cedars Park having been ongoing for a number of years.”

Suffolk Coastal District Council said that £1.8m of its total was committed to the East Lane Trust coastal management scheme at Bawdsey. A spokesman added: “The reality is that all Section 106 money has been allocated - the agreements that are made at the time of the planning permission being granted sets out where the spending will occur.”

Dr Wil Gibson, chief executive of Suffolk ACRE, said: “Normally the 106 agreement is there to off-set the impact of development and usually the district and county council get together to say what is needed, so if they are building a large housing estate they might say that the schools need extra class rooms. Essentially they already know what they would want to spend the money on.

“I do not think the money is being held there without any purpose. The key question to ask the councils is how long before they act on what the agreement is”.

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