October 3, 2018 9.50 am This story is over 37 months old

Councils yet to spend £9.5 million of developers’ money

Councils are sitting on £9.5m of developers’ contributions

Almost £9.5 million of developers’ contributions across Greater Lincolnshire remains unspent.

However, all the councils agree the money will be handed out eventually and are held up by progress and public bodies to move on new infrastructure projects.

A Freedom of Information request to all the district councils in Lincolnshire, and the Unitary authorities of North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire, has revealed that over the past five years, £23,104,418 has been received in Section 106 contributions – those asked for from developers to go towards infrastructure such as affordable housing, health, education and transport.

However, just over 40 per cent of that remains unspent with councils continuing to hold £9,496,811 of the total figure.

South Kesteven District Council received the most money from developers, and said their £6 million plus collection total showed ‘the district is attractive for investment and growth’ – particularly in the housing sector.

They said that more than £2.6 million of unspent cash was due to a large number of ‘major projects’ in the district.

They added that the authority and its partners in some instances forward fund the infrastructure before this is paid back in arrears.

“For example, new schools are eagerly anticipated and have a long lead time,” they said. “SKDC will agree with section 106 partners to hold the funds until a threshold amount is collected.

“Furthermore, the council works closely with local parishes and community groups to develop projects for expenditure.

“As a result, the development stage is a critical but important period for local partners and this can result in a larger surplus which remains allocated until expenditure is made.”

A number of the councils said that the money was allocated and ready to be spent, but were often dependent on other bodies such as the NHS or Lincolnshire County Council to bring projects forward.

Boston  said the bulk of their cash was for LCC projects, with only £88,200 of the money actually being the authority’s.

Councillor Eddy Poll, Executive Member for Commercial and Environment Management at Lincolnshire County Council, confirmed that the county often held back until there was a ‘sufficiently large funding pool’.

He said spending took place “at the appropriate time in order to provide the greatest benefit for the people of Lincolnshire.”

“Up to five contributions can be pooled towards any item of infrastructure, and other funding sources, for example, central government funding, is also frequently required which may see contributions held while those funding sources are realised,” he said.

East Lindsey and South Holland District Councils both outlined the strict rules around S106 spends, adding developments were monitored and chased up ‘where projects don’t appear to be progressing’.

A spokesman for SHDC said: “At present, all S106 funds we hold have been allocated for specific planning purposes and will be spent within the allocated time-frame.

“The fact that there is often a lag between receipt and spend is perfectly normal.”

West Lindsey District Council, which had more than £1 million of its S106 money ‘unallocated’ said much of its cash was for affordable housing.

A spokesman said this is because ‘the delivery of affordable housing schemes are a development project in their own right, including all the work done as part of a normal planning application.

“While £1mill may appear to be unallocated on the spreadsheet provided, this is not to say that projects for delivery are not being scoped and developed, it is that they remain commercially sensitive until they have been through our governance process, at which point any scheme will be promoted though our existing comms strategy for Affordable Housing,” they said.

North East Lincolnshire Council, said the bulk of its funding had been received in the last few years rather than over the five-year period.

“The majority of s106 funding received at North East Lincs Council is required to be spent on affordable housing or on education investment and, as such, spend is not immediate,” they said.

“Where we can, we spend the money to improve facilities immediately. However, for the longer term projects, plans are developed and partners engaged in order to prioritise where the money should be spent.

“The money is often invested in buildings to improve educational facilities and housing and this type of capital works can take time to be planned, developed and completed.”

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