Gloucester may lose out on more than £220,000 from developers
By Laura Enfield | 19th July 2023
Wide-scale mismanagement could see Gloucester lose out on more than £220,000 from developers.
Gloucester City Council has missed deadlines for spending s106 money, overspent on projects and failed to keep proper records of contributions according to a recent report.
It looked into how the authority handles s106 money- payments agreed between developers and councils when planning permission is granted.
The funding usually goes towards projects which benefit the local community such as schools, libraries, open spaces and children's play areas.
The report, which was discussed by the audit and governance committee on Monday, was written following an external audit of processes. It said an overhaul of s106 management is now underway to correct past errors and ensure money is properly spent.
The report revealed responsibility for s106 cash was piecemeal and effective management and monitoring "was not evident".
It said: "There are currently multiple owners and 'hand offs' of the S106 process, blurring ownership and accountability responsibilities."
A promised review of the department by June 2021 had not taken place at the time of the audit and plans to transfer all agreements from spreadsheets to an online system were disrupted by the cyber attack in December 2021.
The report highlighted six agreements where the deadline for spending developers' contributions of approximately £220,000 had passed.
It also revealed three agreements totalling approximately £85,000 for affordable homes had been received in 2018 but not yet been spent as no "suitable schemes have been identified".
One developer had agreed to start paying installments of a £75,000 contribution in July 2022. But at the time of the audit no money had changed hands.
Councillor Andrew Gravells (C, Abbeydale) has been requesting basic information on the figures since 2020, according to a report by the BBC.
He said he was told in January 2021 that there were no discrepancies, but the more he looked into it, he became "less convinced" that they were accurate figures.
The report noted a difference in the 2019-20 carried forward figures for retained developer contributions of £1,724,283.73 to that brought forward to 2020-21 of £1,659,129.53.
This is a discrepancy of £65,154.20 but no information was given about why this was.
The report also shows there were three agreements where the council had spent £50,000 more than the developer had committed to provide.
An action plan by the council to avoid further mistakes includes two new staff - an open spaces officer to oversee the delivery and completion of current and planned S106 projects in open spaces is due to start on July 24. The council also plans to recruit for an admin role by September.
Overall responsibility for s106 has now been allocated to the council's head of place David Oakhill.
Punchline-Gloucester.com has contacted the council for a comment.
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