Politicians have said they are "frankly astonished" millions of pounds earmarked for community facilities across the county have been left to gather dust in the bank.

Oxfordshire County councillors discussed where section 106 contributions from developers for housing projects have gone missing. 

Section 106 funding, which developers are told to invest into the community, under planning law was brought up during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The issue of the council having almost £278million held waiting to be spent was met with the response "this cannot continue" in official meeting papers amid concern the value of the dough is decreasing day-by-day with inflation.

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Speaking at Tuesday's meeting, Conservative place overview and scrutiny committee chairman Kieron Mallon, said: "I became increasingly concerned that whilst the towns and villages have taken all the pain in the housing numbers they've not received the gain in the section 106 (S106) infrastructure.

Herald Series: Kieron Mallon against the backdrop of a colourful background.Kieron Mallon against the backdrop of a colourful background. (Image: Oxfordshire County Council.)

"We were frankly astonished.

"The money is just sitting there on this occasion.

"It's ready and waiting for something in particular. That needs to be made clear."

The committee report added: "Some funds have been 'held for over 20 years without any movement other than accruing of interest'.

"This cannot continue."

Herald Series: Councillor's and officers at Tuesday's meeting.Councillor's and officers at Tuesday's meeting. (Image: Oxfordshire County Council.)

The cash is ringfenced for certain initiatives meaning it can only be used for community and social infrastructure projects such as village halls, play parks, and sports facilities.

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said: "It is not unusual for the county council to hold monies in readiness to spend on strategic infrastructure, which takes often many years to be delivered.

"The county council has an exceptionally good record in negotiating and collecting S106 payments and regularly reviews the quantity of S106 monies held against the infrastructure needed to support or mitigate development."

But speaking on the revelation, Conservative county councillor for the Hanborough and Minster Lovell division, Liam Walker, said: “I am astonished that the county council are sat on such a huge amount of money which has been secured from development sites across Oxfordshire.

"I feel this is a real kick in the teeth to residents who in some villages have more housing in unpopular places but have lacked the infrastructure to go with it.

Herald Series: Liam Walker.Liam Walker. (Image: Oxfordshire County Council.)

"The county council needs to urgently focus on how it can start spending this £278 million.

"I am also deeply concerned how there is £39 million secured as other but when I challenged senior council officers on what this covered they didn’t have an answer.”

The county council spokesman said: "With reference to ‘other’, this refers to non-S106 monies such as those held as bonds for required infrastructure works including Section 278 arrangements (highway works), which again is not unusual."

Judy Roberts, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for infrastructure and development strategy, added: “I would be very happy to hear from councillor Walker if there is any particular reference that he wants to draw my attention to in terms of needs and benefits that he considers are not being attended to.”

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About the author

Noor is the Local Democracy Reporter for Oxfordshire who covers political stories from across the county. 

She began working as a journalist in Oxford in September 2023 having graduated from the University of Oxford.

Noor was trained at the News Associates journalism school and can be found on X through the handle @NoorJQurashi