Labour spin on police funding unravels

Last month Labour claimed in a press release that they had negotiated extra money from property developers for policing.

It turns out that some of that money will replace funding that the Council’s was funding directly. That means that maintaining funding for those extra police officers is entirely dependent on property developers.

Furthermore much of the money from property developers – the Section 106 payments – had ALREADY been agreed before Labour took over. (Indeed it was money for developments that their councillors opposed.) See this list on page 10 Appendix A of this report. The only question was what to spend it on. I had previously been unallocated. That’s fine to spend it on policing – although that means it won’t be available for parks, or schools, or libraries or road improvements. But it is not extra money.

So has an extra money been agreed on Section 106 money since the election? Er, no.

I asked the following query:

“Please advise on any renegotiations of Section 106 payments since May this year. Both any changes to the total payments and also how those payments will be allocated.”

Here is the reply from John Finlayson, Head of Planning Regeneration:

“Earls Court

Both LBHF and RBKC agreed with the applicant by way of a Deed of Variation that some payments in the completed Sec 106 agreement relating to employment and training opportunities could be deferred. Both Councils thought this was a reasonable approach provided there was an appropriate and reasonable long stop date to ensure that when the payments are received the Councils are able to use them for the purposes for which the obligation was required. The Councils considered that the Exhibition Demolition Date, currently scheduled for Jan 2015 was a reasonable long stop date for the payments which otherwise would have been payable on commencement of the development. Such payment will ensure that the proposal remains in accordance with the relevant provisions of the development plan.  

Additionally in respect of Sec 106 agreements not completed I can advise:

Westfield

The £20 million Sec 106 infrastructure contribution attached to the recent planning permission is consistent with the amount identified in the planning committee report. An additional clause, however, was included in the Sec 106 which provides an option to the Council should it decide to allocate £2 million to the Wood Lane station decking and the opening up of some of the western railway arches, then Westfield will further subsidise the Discount Market Sale dwellings by an additional £2 million (over the already committed £20 million) so the 3-bed DMS units are more affordable to our Home Buy registered clients.

Hurlingham Retail Park

The planning committee report identified £10 million S106 infrastructure contribution.  The Council’s standard wording within Sec 106 agreements is that the monies can be allocated for a range of social, economic and environmental purposes including ‘any such measures as may be agreed in writing by the Owner (Developer) and the Council’.  There is no further limitation within the definition in respect of what these measures may be.  

1.  It has been agreed by the developer and the Council prior to signing the Sec 106 to allocate a proportion of the infrastructure contribution,, £5 million towards on-site affordable housing.

 2.  The allocation of the Sec 106 £5m results in the provision of the affordable housing on site increasing from 25 units (3 x DMS, 6 x affordable rent and 16 social rent homes) to 34 units.  The affordable housing would be provided as social rent comprising 12 x 1 bed units, 16 x 2 bed units, 6 x 3 bed units.

 3.  The requirement for a viability review to be submitted by the developer before the sale of the 185th residential unit has been included in the Sec 106. Any additional profit over 17.5% on Gross Development Value and capped at £20,000,000 would be split 50/50 between the applicant and the council up to a maximum of £10 million.  Any surplus could only be used by the Council  towards the provision of  affordable housing in the Borough.”

So some changes on housing allocations but no extra Section 106 money yet. If some can be squeezed then that’s good news. There will always be negotiations under way. But it is complacent and misleading to claim to have closed any deal when the negotiations are still under way.

By the way why did we not read about deals with property developers that Mr Finlayson told me about on the Council’s website? There is supposed to be this information in the section on meetings with property developers.

Mr Finlayson said of the changes agreed with Westfield:

“It does not appear on the Transparency pages of the Council’s website because these provide a brief record of meetings between developers and councillors.”

Indeed. I will endeavour to keep you informed of what is really going on.

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