Kirklees council has £6m sitting in bank waiting to be spent on borough

Hopton Primary School in Mirfield, which lost out on 87,000 of Section 106 money
Hopton Primary School in Mirfield, which lost out on 87,000 of Section 106 money

Millions of pounds is sitting in a council’s bank account ready to be spent on improvements across the Kirklees borough.

The cash, known as Section 106 money, is paid by developers as part of agreements when building housing or commercial sites, and in Kirklees a whopping £6m remains unspent.

However, the money has been allocated towards infrastructure such as schools and play areas: for example, some of the money goes straight to schools to mitigate the cost of extra pupils.

Mirfield Coun Martyn Bolt said developers pay such money up front and in advance of the start of building work to prevent reneging on contracts.

He said: "If you don’t pay, you don’t build."

Councillors and officers debated how the money could and should be spent as part of a review of the Section 106 process.

There has been frustration in the past as money raised from large-scale housing developments has not been ring-fenced for those specific areas.

Instead it has often has been spent elsewhere in the borough.

The council has come under fire for failing to collect some of the money and allowed developers not to pay what they were contracted to deliver.

Hopton Primary School in Mirfield is owed more than £87,000 by a housing developer that has breached its legal agreement.

The council is taking legal action to recover the cash from developer Lea Croft Residential.

However the council said such failures were rare, with just three examples in the last 20 years.

The council’s Head of Planning, Mathias Franklin, said Section 106 agreements were “a standard way” of letting development happen.

And he doubted the authority would be able to secure all payments up front.

Mr Franklin said: “It’s the planning authority’s role to bring in the money, to secure the money and to monitor the obligations and the developments.

“The council as an organisation is responsible for the implementation of that money.

"I think developers do what they are asked as a general rule.”

Speaking after the meeting Coun Bolt expressed ongoing frustrations that some schools – mainly academies not under local authority control – were missing out on Section 106 money, which he said was unfair.

“In a specific instance more than £80,000 was lost to schools in Mirfield," said Coun Bolt.

"I totally reject the council’s position that it was due to the financial insolvency of the developer because at the time the money was collected the developer was still solvent and building houses.

“The situation is flawed. Where is the responsbility?

“Why should schools in Mirfield miss out because of the failure of the council?

“Whether its the council in general, the service in particular or the Cabinet member for responsibility, somebody should be paying that £87,000.”

The debate took place at a meeting of the council’s Economy and Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Panel on December 20.