11:14AM, Wednesday 05 August 2015
Frustrated fair-funding campaigners may go to the Local Government Ombudsman to complain about the borough's decision to award Holyport College £480,000.
Royal Borough managing director Alison Alexander led a meeting on Tuesday, where some of those unhappy with the council's decision to award the Section 106 cash to Holyport College could ask questions.
The cash was awarded to Holyport College so it can create 48 more places, and revamp its changing rooms and kitchen. The school opened in September.
The panel was asked why the council says only one school could initially benefit from £480,000 of developer contributions from Harrow Estate, which has permission to build 270 homes in Stafferton Way.
The council was later able to get a further £130,000 for Furze Platt Senior School.
Ms Alexander said she was told only one school could benefit, and was then able to go back to Harrow Estates and get more money later.
Director of regeneration and economic development, Chris Hilton, said ‘most’ other schools which had originally been shortlisted for the money had received S106 cash since 2010.
He said officers were worried that the borough would get no money from Harrow Estates, unless they could find a project with a 'direct link' to the homes, which lie almost three miles from Ascot Road's Holyport College.
He said: "Our consultant said if there's a project where we can show, quite clearly, it has a direct link to the [Harrow Estates] project then we've got a chance. That's what we did. We went for it."
The panel was asked if school co-founder Cllr Simon Dudley and Cllr Phillip Bicknell influenced the decision to award Holyport College the cash. Cllr Bicknell's son is sport director at the school.
Both councillors declared interests ahead of the debate when the deal was agreed.
Mr Hilton said officers were under 'no pressure' to commit the funds to Holyport College.
Ms Alexander was asked if it would have been 'prudent' for Cllr Bicknell to sit it out.
She said the council can 'look into' that in the future, adding that both councillors conformed to the regulations by declaring interests.
Speaking outside, Fair Funding campaigners indicated their next move may be to refer the case to the Local Government Ombudsman, the body which investigates complaints against councils.
Ms Alexander said another meeting would be organised with Fair Funding supporters if they still had questions to ask.
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