Missing cash is 'tip of iceberg', says councillor

Missing cash is 'tip of iceberg', says councillor

A MIRFIELD councillor believes North Kirklees could be losing out on millions of pounds in funding owed by developers.

Coun Martyn Bolt spoke out after discovering that a struggling school in Mirfield is owed a share of almost £90,000 by a property firm.

He said the cash owed to Hopton Primary School and Mirfield Free Grammar (MFG) is “just the tip of the iceberg” and posed the question: “How much more money is Kirklees losing by failing to administer the 

planning process?”

The Conservative councillor was prompted to investigate whether Hopton Primary had received all it was owed from firms behind local housing developments after hearing how it had lost £171,000 in government funding in the past four years.

Headteacher Andy Blakeley had even considered closing the Woodend Road school on Friday afternoons in a bid to save money.

Coun Bolt discovered that Hopton Primary and MFG are currently owed more than £87,000 by developers of the nearby South Brook Gardens scheme at Back Station Road, Lea Croft Residential.

The company signed a legal agreement in November 2010 to pay £107,000 as part of a so-called Section 106 agreement.

The money from the deal is used to improve infrastructure and education facilities due to the extra pressure on local facilities created by the increased number of 

residents.

The agreement for the South Brook Gardens development detailed that 50 per cent of the £107,000 should be paid before the occupation of the first dwelling, with the remainder paid prior to the start of the 43rd dwelling. The development was finished in 2016.

So far the council has only received £19,575.50 from the developers – leaving £87,495 outstanding.

And Coun Bolt refused to accept that the reason the council didn’t get the money was because the firm was in financial difficulty.

He said: “When 50 per cent is payable before anybody moves into the houses, if the developer has any financial problems before he gets the first people in then it should have set alarm bells ringing with Kirklees.

“To let it go and to only collect the minor amount which doesn’t relate to anything –  this is a failure throughout Kirklees. “Ultimately in terms of governance at national or local level, the politicians who are supposed to be in charge of the service have to take responsibility.

“I think (council leader) Shabir Pandor should be putting this on the shoulders of whoever heads the regeneration and planning in Kirklees because clearly it’s not fit for purpose.”

Coun Bolt cited another historic development in Mirfield where it was legally agreed that £30,000 would be payable in a Section 106 deal – but to a school in Dewsbury.

He added: “I would go as strong as to say Kirklees are failing both in their financial duties and failing the people in Kirklees.

“Under whatever system you want, somewhere Kirklees is failing to make sure that money is being collected.

“I would urge other councillors and community people to be asking what the situation is in their area.

“There could be millions of pounds lost. This is just one aspect, the educational contribution in Mirfield, so if we were to ask what else there is in terms of unclaimed money for parks, roads and everything else we might find that Kirklees is losing millions of pounds.”

Kirklees Council says it is planning legal action to try and recover the money.

A spokesman for the council said: “We’re aware of the developer’s failure to fully pay the education contribution requirements as part of the planning permission at the former South Brook Mill, Mirfield, and this is extremely disappointing.

“We monitor such agreements closely and during the construction of the residential development in 2016 immediately issued a demand for the full amount to be paid.

“We have since negotiated with the developers to clear the debt, which has included paying through a number of instalments. However, due to the developer’s financial position, at this stage the debt has not been fully settled.

“We are now taking legal action to recover the debt.”

Share this post