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Letter: Section 106 Debate – Why Cllr Potter’s Arguments Are Flawed

Published on: 28 May, 2022
Updated on: 28 May, 2022

From: Sue Wyeth-Price

In response to: My Further Answers to Section 106 Payment Concerns and Concern About Section 106 Money is Misplaced and Alarmist

Cllr George Potter has shown the complete fallacy in his argument. He relies entirely on his reading of the papers presented to the committee, which he appears to have taken as gospel.

I find this a rather odd position for the chair of the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee. GBC appears to consider that anything that has been “handed over” to SCC in particular, or other bodies, can be considered “spent”. This is obviously not how residents would view the situation, given that they have not, in many cases in Ash and Tongham at least, actually had the work done that was deemed “necessary” at the time the s.106 was created.

I would be interested to know if Cllr Potter took any legal advice on his claims that money handed to SCC, but unspent, is not reclaimable.

The “facts” which Cllr Potter refers to are in the original agreements, not in a GBC report taken from a system which officers acknowledge is flawed.

I am surprised that, given his position as chair of the committee, he states that he has no special inside knowledge! I have even less access to officers, papers and reports than he has, however I can say that I have read and assessed 33 s.106 deeds and amendments for our area and compared the actual text and financial contributions to the GBC report.

Perhaps Cllr Potter would do the same before he dismisses my claims on how much is missing, both from the report and on the ground? Would Cllr Potter be prepared to let me know where he thinks my report or my letter is inaccurate?

Surely the purpose of the report (first requested by Cllr Graham Eyre and Cllr Susan Parker in September 2021) was not just to see what money is at risk, but also to allow councillors to stay on top of requirements for their local area? This is impossible without the report including items which have been handed over to third parties.

Cllr Eyre was provided with a report for Ash and Tongham in November, however I worked with him to show how much was missing from that report. The spreadsheet supporting this was provided to the council in December 2021. The April report includes some, but not all, of the items I had in my report.

I find it hugely disappointing that the next copy of the report will not be available until September, a full year since Cllrs Eyre and Parker first requested it.

Cllr Potter suggests that people should attend the meeting or submit questions in advance. I did just that. I submitted a full analysis of the report, even detailing applications, or single contributions, which are missing. I produced two additional tables, one showing the figures by ward, and another showing the funds by year.

I asked several questions and Cllr Julia Osborn (Send Parish Council – a co-opted independent member of CG&S) asked that the committee publish my analysis, and respond to my questions, an option which Cllr Potter, as chair, failed to take up.

Reviewing the webcast of the committee meeting will show that whilst my analysis was mentioned and discussed in part, not all of the issues were raised, and not many of the questions were answered.

Only the most thick-skinned and persistent residents would be happy to go through the subsequent ad hominem attack which follows any criticism of these reports. After three years of this “new” council, I had hoped that input from residents would, by now, be better received.

I suggest that Cllr Potter come to Ash to see for himself that work simply hasn’t been done, or contact the local primary or pre-schools, as we did, to see what little funding they have received.

To residents, where contributions are not spent on what we were promised as necessary for the developments, and where it is not clear who is actually in possession of the money, the funding will always be seen as “missing”.

Finally, I question why Cllr Potter appears to think that the act of handing over funds to third parties, and marking them as “spent”, absolves GBC from any moral responsibility over whether or not the infrastructure or amenities have actually been provided.

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test 2 Responses to Letter: Section 106 Debate – Why Cllr Potter’s Arguments Are Flawed

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    May 28, 2022 at 2:26 pm

    Calling a whistle blower ‘alarmist’ and rubber stamping the council’s process without competent scrutiny is disrespectful and dishonest.

    Cllr Potter is a vocal critic of everyone – especially central government. It’s time he turned his critical attention to the council’s own performance.

    It is deeply ironic that Cllr Potter has, in the past, put himself forward as a “new broom”, as it were, who will improve council performance. Now that his party has joint control of the council, and the largest single party, instead of instigating much needed improvement and reform, Cllr Potter has turned into the chief apologist for the council and its disastrous planning policies.

    If the chair of the Scrutiny Committee just takes the papers he is given by council officers as “gospel” he is not doing the job properly or at all. He certainly has not been accountable to the members of the public who have pointed out serious flaws in the s106 system.

    If he can’t take reasoned and evidenced criticism of the s106 system seriously he should resign and make way for someone who is more competent.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 28, 2022 at 6:44 pm

    I look forward to hearing report of Cllr Potter’s acceptance of the invitation to Ash to view the great works delivered from the S106 funds, as well as the evidence that such have been delivered.

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