A SENIOR director has apologised after City of York Council gave a highly inaccurate response to a Freedom of Information request about unspent 'Section 106' planning payments.
Ian Floyd, director of customers and business support services, admitted the authority was more than £700,000 out when it stated how much of the money, paid to the council by developers to help fund infrastructure projects, had never been spent.
Mr Floyd was responding to a complaint by chartered surveyor and council arch critic Paul Cordock, who spotted discrepancies between the answers to an FoI request made last November and another one made in December.
The director said the difference between the answers given, when the two queries were compared on a like-for-like accounting period, was £704,000, and the difference was not explained by expenditure during the 42 day period between the responses.
"The difference is explained by the council reviewing its records and finding that they were not fully up-to-date and accurate at the time of the initial FOI response, and reflecting a number of corrections in the response to the second FOI request," he said.
"I apologise for this, and can confirm that we have reviewed the records to correct this difference, and put in steps to ensure this does not happen again."
Mr Cordock branded the council's accounting system a 'shambles,' adding: "How many more mistakes are there? I will be referring this to City of York Council's external auditors, Mazars, as a complaint, asking them to investigate this matter."
Mr Floyd said in a statement to The Press: “This was simply that our records in respect of S106 agreements had not been updated at the time of this particular FOI response. Steps have been taken to address this matter.
"The overall accounting records are audited every year and in recent years the auditor has given a very complimentary report to City of York Council.”
Section 106 agreements are legally binding obligations, intended to make developments acceptable in planning terms, with the money going towards services and work on such as highways projects, recreational facilities, education, health and affordable housing.
The Press reported in January how, according to the answer to the first FoI request, about £2.7 million out of more than £3.2 million received through Section 106 payments from developers between 2008 and 2013 was unspent.
In February, this newspaper reported how, according to the answer to the second FoI request, tens of thousands of pounds paid by developers as long ago as the 1990s had never been spent. For example, the council was still holding £20,000 of a Section 106 planning payment made in connection with the designer outlet development at Fulford in 1997/98.
The authority said ‘unspent’ money could legitimately be held for a number of years as per the legal agreement.