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Revealed - five figure sum of cash unrecovered by Suffolk council from abandoned project

PUBLISHED: 16:57 07 December 2018

Suffolk County Council pulled out of the Barley Homes venture with councils in west Suffolk before a single home was built Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council pulled out of the Barley Homes venture with councils in west Suffolk before a single home was built Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

A joint housebuilding venture which Suffolk County Council walked away from before a single home had been built has cost taxpayers £70,000 it has emerged.

Richard Smith, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for finance and assets said the council had a strong history with the west Suffolk councils  Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL/SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHYRichard Smith, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for finance and assets said the council had a strong history with the west Suffolk councils Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL/SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHY

In September Suffolk County Council pulled out of its joint venture with St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils in forming Barley Homes Group.

The scheme, formed in late 2015, aimed to develop vacant land owned by local authorities in the west of the county to provide much-needed homes.

The council confirmed in a report to last month’s audit committee that its £250,000 loan outstanding in the venture would be recovered and meant it will “recoup in full its initial investment and will not bear any of the risk of future development”.

But the council had failed to report that the £70,000 costs it incurred from setting up the company would not be recovered.

Peter Gardiner, Labour group deputy leader, said the revelation was surprising Picture: IBCPeter Gardiner, Labour group deputy leader, said the revelation was surprising Picture: IBC

Councillor Richard Smith, Suffolk County Council’s Conservative cabinet member for finance and assets, said: “We have a successful record of working closely with west Suffolk councils to deliver major projects that bring economic benefit to local residents and businesses.

“Our aspirations still remain to deliver much needed homes, including affordable properties, across Suffolk.

“The investment and time spent developing the Barley Homes model was a real source of insight into the respective roles and responsibilities of different tiers of local government involved in property development.”

The council transferred its share of the firm to the two west Suffolk authorities in September, citing the reason as being “simpler and more effective”.

Green councillor Andrew Stringer said the council needed to see funds being recovered PIcture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILGreen councillor Andrew Stringer said the council needed to see funds being recovered PIcture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

No homes had been built when the county council turned its back on the partnership.

The revelation attracted fresh criticism from opposition parties.

Deputy Labour group leader Peter Gardiner said: “That comes as a surprise because the way it was presented was that there wouldn’t be any loss over pulling out of this deal.

“But the more worrying thing is that over that period of time not a single house was built which was the whole purpose of the venture.”

Andrew Stringer, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, said: “All along we knew there was a set up cost, and the administration may recover some of this money when they sell some of the land to Barley Homes.

“I think £70,000 [loss] is generous if you are discounting the officer time – we want to see this coming back to us as soon as possible.”

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