Islington Council ‘is sitting on £37m of unspent donations from developers’

Finsbury Leisure Centre, seen in an artist's impression by Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects, is one

Finsbury Leisure Centre, seen in an artist's impression by Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects, is one of the projects that will benefit from S106 cash (Picture: Islington Council/Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects) - Credit: Archant

Islington Council is sitting on £37million of unspent donations, new figures have revealed.

Terry Stacy

Terry Stacy - Credit: Archant

Islington Liberal Democrats, which obtained the numbers through the Freedom of Information Act, blasted the Labour-controlled authority for “pleading poverty” at a time of central government cuts to its budget.

The donations came from housing developers as part of Section 106 agreements, which councils are allowed to negotiate when granting planning permission. The money is intended to offset negative effects of development, for example by improving nearby roads and schools.

Terry Stacy, former leader of Islington Council and current leader of the local Lib Dems, said: “Many people will be surprised that the council is hoarding millions of pounds at the same time as pleading poverty and blaming everyone else for its ills.

“With so many of our parks, roads, community buildings and schools in much need of investment, the council needs to pull its finger out and get on with spending the cash appropriately. Bunhill [ward], which has £14m of unspent Section 106 cash, is one of the most deprived wards in our borough.”

But Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington’s housing and development leader, said the money cannot be spent at once.

“It’s good news that the council has been both receiving and spending more Section 106 money each year since 2011 [when it was sitting on £17m] than we had for most previous years.

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“At a time of huge government cuts to council budgets, we are making sure money from developers is spent on the most important projects for Islington.

“These include badly-needed new council housing, the new Finsbury Leisure Centre development, school places and improvements to parks.

“These high-priority projects will make a big difference to Islington, but some take longer to deliver as they are often more complicated than smaller, simpler schemes that do not deliver as wide a benefit.

“This figure of £37.4m includes some money that the council cannot yet spend because developments are yet to be completed. And all Section 106 funds are subject to detailed restrictions around location and type of infrastructure that money can be spent on.”

He added: “Ultimately, the most important thing is to make sure money goes to the projects that will most benefit Islington, and that is what we are doing.”