RBC’s Conservative Group had their urgent questions about recent press reports highlighting a worrying lack of robustness with the allocation of public funds rejected from being heard at the Council’s Policy Committee meeting last night.
Conservative Councillor for Kentwood Ward, Cllr Tom Steele, had hoped to ask about the impact on his residents following reports RBC had been forced to repay £22,000 to a developer. The money was ring fenced to upgrade bus stops near the Kentwood Hill development and provide real time information boards.. Cllr Steele said “Residents of my Ward should be benefiting from the agreed improvements already, but these now appear to be in jeopardy as a result of the funds being spent elsewhere. I am calling on Reading Labour to confirm that the works will go ahead, and that residents of Kentwood Ward will not lose out.”
Conservative spokesman on Planning, Cllr Isobel Ballsdon, had wanted to ask whether the Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport could reassure opposition Councillors and the public that the Council had not misallocated or misspent any further S106 developer monies. Cllr Ballsdon said “I raised significant concerns about the transparency and allocation of S106 monies with Reading’s Chief Executive, Michael Coughlin, in 2010. As a result he commissioned an independent investigation into Section 106 spending, which led to improvements in the transparency of funding allocations across Reading. However recent press reports have highlighted that S106 monies have had to be returned this year. The extent of risk the Council may be exposed to is yet unknown. If there was nothing to hide, surely the Labour administration would have been able to answer our questions without delay?"
Conservative Spokesman on Transport issues, Cllr Ed Hopper, had asked for permission to ask for additional information on overspending on the recent Reading Station area redevelopment and the new Pedestrian / Cycle Bridge to identify where these additional funds were found. Cllr Hopper said “Reading residents deserve to know which other schemes in the town have had to be shelved or reduced in scope in order to meet the funding shortfalls on the new pedestrian / Cycle Bridge and on the area around the station.”
Group Leader Cllr Jeanette Skeats said "The Conservatives' job as the main opposition in Reading is to hold Reading Labour to account, and not to be fobbed off with endless reports which say a lot but reveal very little. Conservative Councillors had submitted these urgent questions because the people of Reading will have been very concerned by what they read in the press last week.”
Cllr Skeats added "The fact that we are being denied the chance to ask these questions immediately means that residents will have to wait weeks to find out what is going on, and that just is not good enough.”