WOKING borough councillor Josh Brown is pressing the council to release community infrastructure funding for West Byfleet Recreation Ground improvements.

Cllr Brown (Byfleet and West Byfleet) believes the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), a charge which can be levied by local authorities on developers to help deliver the infrastructure needed to support new developments, should not be frozen as a consequence of the Section 114 notice issued in June by Woking Borough Council.

“The council will suspend any applications to spend this money until February 2024 at the earliest,” Cllr Brown said. 

“Across Woking, the total amount of Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure funding available is just under £2 million.

“We were told as councillors that these funds would be ringfenced in separate accounts and safeguarded. Why wasn’t it safeguarded for infrastructure improvements as per the statutory duties of the council?”

Cllr Brown has written to the council’s chief executive Julie Fisher to argue his point that ringfenced CIL funds should sit outside the investment freeze imposed while the council’s finances are examined.

In his letter, he said: “Local councillors have submitted two applications: the installation of two new tennis courts, with external funding also secured from the Lawn Tennis Association; and installation of an outdoor gym, with discounted prices from The Great Outdoor Gym Company.

“The West Byfleet Neighbourhood Forum Area has over £1 million in their ‘pot’ of the Community Infrastructure Fund – a fund that should be ringfenced for infrastructure improvements.

“I am asking you to ensure that the council commits to deliver our submitted applications.”

Cllr Brown added: “This isn’t ‘council money’, this is money for the community that is supposed to be safeguarded by law to improve local infrastructure.” 

Brendan Arnold, the council’s interim director of finance, has addressed councillors’ questions about the availability of money to continue with the programme of mostly local schemes funded by CIL at ward level.

Mr Arnold wrote to councillors, his response making the points, among others, that: “The council is planning to meet all of its commitments against these monies. That said, members will be aware that the investment programme generally has been suspended.

“The monies received from CIL are held within the council’s accounting system. They are credited to one of many separate accounts on the council’s balance sheet within the overall level of reserves and other resources. 

“Given that the council has a negative general fund balance of £1.2 billion, those reserves are unable to be drawn down at the present time.” 

That, however, has failed to convince Cllr Brown, who is chair of the overview and scrutiny committee and has ensured that the issue will be discussed at its extraordinary meeting on August 14, when, he said, senior council directors will be scrutinised.