The below statement was read at the Mendip District Council on Monday evening on behalf of Tessa Munt MP:
Thank you Mr Chairman.
Monies from Section 106 Agreements are not raised by billing Council taxpayers in the Mendip District.
The loss therefore of £500,000 – half a million pounds – of Section 106 funding for affordable housing for young people in Street by this Council is absolutely catastrophic.
But unfortunately, this is just one of a number of examples of failures relating to Section 106 funding. This particular mess stands out because of the huge amount of money involved, but when other cases are considered, it reveals systemic failure.
I have examples of countless instances where this Council has caused local people to lose out both in financial terms and changes which would improve their lives.
Take the quarter of a million pounds 106 Agreement to provide community facilities on the Tadley Acres development. The residents have had no explanation of where the money has gone, and instead a planning application for many houses on land their deeds say was for community use.
Then there is controversy surrounding the money from the Slips Nursery development in Frome because of a badly designed 106 Agreement.
What about the man whose house was part of a development where the 106 Agreement guaranteed a road would be built at the rear of his property? Well – the developer hasn’t complied, the Council will not enforce the 106 Agreement and the developer has applied to build more houses – with, wait for it – a promise that the road will be completed after he has sold the next lot.
I am shocked that the item on tonight’s Agenda requests Councillors ‘note’ a Report which provides little substance in analysis, conclusions and lessons learned.
So I’m calling on the Scrutiny Committee to reject that request and to refer this matter to full Council. These failures needs action. It is an insult to you and to local tax payers for this simply to be ‘noted’.
I would ask the Scrutiny Committee to make enquiries on:
- What action the Council has taken to recover these monies for local people.
- Has the Council’s insurer been notified of this failure?
- Has a claim for the £500,000 been made?
- If not, I would ask the Scrutiny Committee make its enquiries and ensure appropriate action is taken to ensure Mendip residents do not lose out.
I would ask the Scrutiny Committee to request a full ‘timeline’ of the events. Tessa can clearly remember attending meetings some ten or eleven years ago about the 106 negotiations for affordable housing in Street. It seems perverse that this has taken over a decade for us to end up with a failure.
It seems completely unacceptable for Mendip to advise that any shortfall should be corrected by moving funds from other areas of its activity. This would impact directly on Council taxpayers – whom I believe pay their Council tax for services to be delivered – not to prop up failures caused by the Council itself.
Finally I would like to see what recommendations have been made to ensure the process is robust and that this can never happen again.
Clearly, the Council’s Planning and Legal Departments are all culpable, but the Scrutiny Committee should ask questions about the capacity of those teams to cope with a large workload and increasing numbers of applications. The role of a Section 106 officer should be given the priority and time needed – after all, the salary of a well-qualified and experienced negotiator pales into insignificance when compared with the costs to the community of losing the benefit of just this one Section 106 Agreement