Councils are being urged to disclose how much money they have to build affordable housing after a HuffPost UK investigation revealed millions is sitting unspent.
A housing association group is demanding to know just how much cash is available to local authorities to help ease the homes crisis, after HuffPost UK revealed on Monday councils across England and Wales have more than £375million available to spend.
But the true amount of money set aside for affordable housing could be significantly higher, with many councils either ignoring or refusing to give the data requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
Cornwall, Wiltshire, Liverpool, Shropshire and Doncaster councils were among 66 authorities not to give the information requested, while 267 did provide the data.
The revelation of the pot of money sitting unspent led Downing Street to claim the current system is not working properly and pledged reform.
The money is hoovered up by councils under a piece of planning law called Section 106 agreements, which sees developers hand over cash as part of planning permission being granted.
The cash has to be used for specific tasks, such as affordable housing, highways repairs and even public art.
James Prestwich, Head of Policy at the housing associations lobby group the National Housing Federation told HuffPost UK: “We understand that Freedom of Information requests can sometimes be difficult to process quickly, but we would encourage any local authorities that have not published this data to do so as soon as possible.
“They should also have a clear plan in place to spend any unallocated funding – by working in partnership with local housing associations, councils can ensure this money is being spent effectively and in a way that makes a real difference to people’s lives.”
Homeless charity Shelter also called for more transparency, with its chief executive Polly Neate telling HuffPost UK: “Councils should explain to the public why money for affordable housing isn’t being invested for that purpose given the housing emergency we face.
“But councils can’t do it on their own. The government needs to pull its weight too by making sure upcoming changes to planning rules make it harder for developers to wriggle out of building affordable homes.”
Downing Street confirmed the Government wants to see changes to the current system, where developers can escape their obligations to build affordable housing by handing over cash to councils.
A spokesperson said: “The current system of developer contributions is not working as it should.
“That’s exactly why we have proposed reforms that will support swifter development, and make the process more transparent and accountable .”
HuffPost UK’s investigation was welcomed by Twitter users, with many expressing concern that so much money was yet to be used.
Councils who refused to give information on unspent Section 106 monies
Derbyshire County Council
Staffordshire County Council
Oxfordshire County Council
Bath & North East Somerset Council
City of London Corporation
East Sussex County Council
Gloucestershire County Council
Hampshire County Council
Lewes District Council
London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
London Borough of Sutton
Mid Devon District Council
Rutland County Council
Sedgemoor District Council
Somerset County Council
Surrey County Council
West Berkshire Council
Cumbria County Council
Councils who did not answer the Freedom of Information request
Blaenau Gwent County Borough
Carmarthenshire County Council
Ceredigion County Council
City & County of Swansea
City of Westminster
City of York
Darlington Borough Council
Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council
East Hampshire District Council
Flintshire County Council
Gosport Borough Council
Hyndburn Borough Council
Isle of Anglesey Council
Liverpool City Council
London Borough of Bexley
London Borough of Harrow
London Borough of Islington
North Dorset District Council
North West Leicestershire
Pendle Borough Council
Preston City Council
Ribble Valley Borough Council
Taunton Deane Borough Council
Test Valley Borough Council
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council
Watford Borough Council
Waverley Borough Council
West Devon Borough Council
West Dorset District Council
Weymouth & Portland Borough Council
Woking Borough Council