Row over Sheffield council spending

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Councillors in Sheffield have been criticised for failing to spend one penny of a 
£4.6 million funding allocation.

Opposition councillors made attacks over the authority’s local growth fund, which was created from the New Homes Bonus, a grant paid by central Government for increasing the number of homes.

However, ruling Labour members said they were trying to ‘twist the truth’.

The Liberal Democrats said the council left the entire £4.6m allocated for 2013-14 unspent, on top of £100,000 not spent from the previous year’s £3m grant.

They said another £6m will come from the New Homes Bonus this financial year which could be used for funding under-threat libraries or care homes.

Town hall chiefs say the money has been committed to various projects over the next two years and was designed for regeneration.

However, the bonus is not ‘ring-fenced’ for a particular purpose, so councils have the freedom to spend it as they wish.

Coun Andrew Sangar, Lib Dem finance spokesman, said: “Given the doom-laden predictions Labour politicians keep spouting, you’d have thought council accountants would be searching under the sofa for every missing penny.

“It’s hard to believe council bosses have allowed almost £5m in funding to sit unspent in the bank, with another £6m due this year.

“At a time when libraries and care homes have been threatened with closure, this money could have been used to protect services or attract new jobs to the city.”

The bonus is based on council tax revenue raised from new homes and long-term empty properties brought back into use.

The Department for Communities and Local Government says councils can decide ‘how to spend’ it, although communities should be consulted.

Coun Harry Harpham, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods, said: “It is untrue to say the council has this money spare.

“This is funding the Government have specifically designed for regeneration projects – not to fund libraries. Yet again, the Lib Dems are trying to twist the truth.”