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Pots of money claims denied

PUBLISHED: 23:32 31 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:40 05 July 2010

CLAIMS that a cash-strapped council have been "sitting" on pots of money have been dismissed.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that councils across Suffolk have been holding a combined fortune of £24.

CLAIMS that a cash-strapped council have been “sitting” on pots of money have been dismissed.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that councils across Suffolk have been holding a combined fortune of £24.2m, which should be used be used for community projects and improvements.

Suffolk County Council is holding on to £12.558m while Waveney District Council has £2.4m in its coffers.

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

But while countywide it remains unclear how much of the money has been allocated for specific schemes, the councils have come under fire for the delay in spending the cash.

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.”

However, Phil Harris, Waveney's communications manager, refuted the claims. “All the money comes from developers, is earmarked for development projects and will be spent,” he told The Journal.

The Journal can today reveal that of the current £2.4m in Waveney's accounts:

£500,000 is for open space/play projects where each individual amount must be spent within the vicinity of the development it was generated from. Of this, £173,000 is from contributions made up front (rather than entering into a legal agreement), which the council must not spend until building works start. Much of the rest is either allocated to projects or awaiting further funds for bigger projects and some is awaiting allocation.

£616,000 is for the provision of affordable housing and is generally used to assist housing associations in providing new affordable units. Over £300,000 is allocated to projects and £240,000 has already been spent this financial year.

£1.1m has been spent as part of the Sunrise Scheme/Relief Road project, but the council is awaiting an invoice to pay it out.

“The rest is for specific projects including community facilities, highway improvements and cycleways and is all planned for expenditure within the next 18 months or so,” Mr Harris said.

Meanwhile, at county headquarters, Suffolk County Council's £12.5m figure “covers a number of developments over a number of years,” according to a spokesman.

“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,” the spokesman said. “For example, we usually have a period of about 10 years from completion of a development within which to spend contributions on local schools.”

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