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Letter: Concern About Section 106 Money is Misplaced and Alarmist

Published on: 17 May, 2022
Updated on: 23 May, 2022

From: George Potter

Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

In response to: Where is our Missing £11.5 Million? – A Warning to Other Wards

Sue Wyeth-Price’s concern is admirable, but is unfortunately misplaced, somewhat alarmist, and severely mistaken on several points.

I would urge her, and members of the public, to watch the webcast, or read the minutes, of the Corporate Governance & Standards Committee meeting (click here to link) held on April 21 where we discussed the section 106 contributions report:

Sue Wyeth-Price wrote to all members of the committee in advance of the meeting, and many of her claims are completely incorrect. For instance, there is absolutely not £5 million “missing” for the Ash and Tongham area, nor £11.5 million “missing” in general; we had this confirmed at the meeting and the numbers in the report simply do not bear out that claim.

As Chair of the Corporate Governance & Standards Committee, I was really pleased that last month saw the first report on section 106 contributions, something which committee members had asked for and which is going to be a recurring item going forward.

We were aware of concern about how these contributions were being tracked and spent, and having a regular report on them gives both councillors and members of the public the opportunity to review the figures and interrogate them.

As I said at the meeting, the fact that Sue Wyeth-Price had raised her concerns with the committee members proves that the report is working. Its existence, as a regular item, means that there will be transparency and scrutiny about what is happening with Section 106 contributions.

To briefly summarise what is happening with Section 106 contributions, and to set the record straight:

1) There is, in fact, just £270,000 of unspent Section 106 contributions which are under the control of GBC and which are at risk of having to be returned.

2) The bulk of the unspent contributions relate to historic CCTV schemes where there are technical obstacles to actually installing the CCTV.

3) There is a total of £11.75 million of unspent Section 106 contributions held by GBC and Surrey County Council, but the vast, vast majority of this money managed by GBC is on track to be spent in time.

4) Section 106 contributions are often a partial contribution towards a piece of infrastructure, which is the main reason why the contributions usually aren’t spend immediately. Instead, a lot of the time, the council has to wait until the piece of infrastructure is actually being created before it can put the contribution towards it. This is why it can take years for the money to be spent, but that is in fact the system functioning correctly and as designed by the government.

5) Many wards do still have Section 106 contributions waiting to be spent, especially in the Ash and Tongham area, but this is very much in the tens of thousands of pounds per ward, or hundreds of thousands for a wider area, and not the millions of pounds which Sue Wyeth-Price is claiming.

6) If anyone is concerned about Section 106 contributions and how they are being spent in their area then I would recommend that they write to their local councillors about it or come to our committee meeting on 29th September when an updated version of the Section 106 report will next be discussed.

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test 3 Responses to Letter: Concern About Section 106 Money is Misplaced and Alarmist

  1. S Callanan Reply

    May 24, 2022 at 7:00 pm

    Could Cllr Potter set the record a little straighter still?

    1) “Just £270,000” may not be a large amount in terms of S106 money, but we live in a borough which is closing public toilets because we can’t afford to keep them open.

    2) How “historic” are the CCTV schemes upon which the bulk of the £270,000 at risk of return is to be spent? What are the technical obstacles preventing installation?

    3) Of the £11.75 million unspent S106 money held by GBC and Surrey County Council, how much is held by GBC and how much of that figure is not on track to be spent on time?

    4) Could we have two or three helpful examples with figures, please?

    5) Are these unspent S106 contributions in the “hundreds of thousands” of pounds included in, or additional to, the sums mentioned earlier?

    6) Wouldn’t it be easier (and more transparent and accountable) for GBC to publish an annual digest of S106 money so everyone could see what was coming in and going out, what it was being spent on and how much is left? If the sum left was broken down into years of origin we’d know how long the CCTV money remaining, for example, had been waiting to be used.

    I seem to recall that in 2019/20 GBC had to give back to the government just under £4,000,000 in right to buy receipts plus just under £400,000 in interest and that this was because the money hadn’t been spent in the time allowed. I don’t know if the same thing happened in 2020/21 but presumably Cllr Potter does.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 24, 2022 at 7:13 pm

    Sue Wyeth-Price has set out a series of facts. Cllr Potter has done nothing but gainsay all her claims, without giving us any detail behind his counterclaims.

    I know who I believe, and it isn’t someone on a committee that’s has never ensured any corporate governance, nor effectively scrutinized the behaviour of councillors or officers.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    May 24, 2022 at 9:17 pm

    Cllr Potter seems complacent.

    But when has the council’s scrutiny committee ever found anything worth scrutinising? Not even the Local Plan – approved by the then leader of the Lib Dems.

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