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Essex County Council sits on Basildon cash
6:00am Wednesday 9th October 2013 in Local News
ESSEX County Council is sitting on a pot of cash worth more than £3million that was earmarked to improve areas in Basildon, it has been revealed.
Millions of pounds paid out by developers for improvements in the borough have remained unspent for years, with some of the cash being held on to by the authority for as long as 13 years.
Figures leaked to the Echo show County Hall is sitting on £2.2million in unspent cash for road improvements and £1.2million for education in Basildon.
Developers have to offer money to councils to push through planning applications, known as Section 106 agreements, as a sweetner to ensure communities affected by projects – such as new housing developments – benefit through improved facilities, education projects and road improvements.
However, Essex County Council has £3.5million worth of unspent Section 106 cash earmarked for Basildon in its coffers, with sums of money received as far back as 2000 remaining unspent.
- A total of £134,912 received in 2008 to construct a toucan crossing in Cherrydown East, Basildon, is likely to be given back because the authority miscalculated how much was needed
- County Hall only received £107,000 for road improvements after a development in Bridge Road, Wickford – eight years after the application was given the go-ahead – and it will not be spent until 2015 ! The authority is sitting on £249,000 which was received in 2000 for a bridge at Cleanaway, in Pitsea, which is still unspent
- In 2012/13 County Hall had to give back £141,140 because the time limit to spend the cash had expired, but it would not say which development this was for.
Campaign groups and opposition councilors have reacted with anger to the latest figures.
David Harrison, vice chairman of Wickford Action Group, said: “These figures are frightening. It is a fund to ensure communities do have some sort of mitigation when big developments happen, and it is to make improvements at the same time as the developments take place.
“We’ve opened a can of worms across the county and it just makes you wonder what things they are doing in agreeing S106 payments without checking the cost and timescales to ensure the works take place when the developments are built.”
The entire allocation of cash received for education, which is normally used to provide extra school places as a result of big housing developments, remains unspent. However, County Hall insists it is used on a demand basis. This includes cash received in 2008 due to the controversial decision to knock down Markhams Chase Leisure Centre, still unused five years later.
The authority claims it can only plan how to spend the money after the sums are received, but the authority has failed to spend cash on five projects within deadline.
Ukip county councillor Nigel Le Gresley, who represents Wickford Crouch, added: “There is a huge amount of cash swirling around in this pot and we’re in some situations where insufficient money has been allocated to certain projects, which is crazy. Much more high-quality work must be done by County Hall to support councils in ensuring S106 money is adequate for the work proposed.”
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