By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
KIRKLEES COUNCIL will continue to lose money until it hires a dedicated officer to pursue payments from property developers.
That’s the message from Mirfield councillor Martyn Bolt who says the authority should learn from the lesson of ‘losing’ almost £100,000 from one developer.
Councils use deals known as Section 106 agreements to extract cash from property firms for key infrastructure such as sports facilities, children’s play areas, affordable housing, and investment in local schools.
Between 2013 and 2018 the authority received £6.3m in S106 payments. Up to June last year £5.5m remained unspent although all of the cash had been allocated.
The Press reported (May 3) that Kirklees has been forced to take legal action against property firm Lea Croft Residential, which built the South Brook Gardens estate in Mirfield and was bound to pay £107,000 in its S106 agreement. The council received just £19,575.50.
It prompted Coun Bolt to urge Kirklees to deal with any further potential problems by hiring someone to handle negotiations and pursue payments.
He said Barnsley Council had recently advertised for a S106 programme manager with a salary between £34,788 and £37,849 and suggested Kirklees should follow suit.
He said: “There could be a clause in every contract that paid a contribution to a 106. That could be cost neutral to the council.
“It could even mean easy money for the council if it meant that we were not losing money through errors.
“This is an opportunity to fix the problem before it gets any worse.”
He added: “It has been confirmed by the council’s Section 151 officer that currently there is £100,000 that may have been lost. The developer didn’t pay it and the council didn’t pursue it. If we had had a S106 officer I am sure that this would have been monitored and the money in Mirfield would not have been missed.”
Kirklees Council was approached to comment.