Claims that Reading Borough Council (RBC) is sitting on £5.7m of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) money have been rebuked.

A freedom of information request (FOI) by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) found that Reading had not spent 85 per cent of receipts from the levy by the end of the financial year 2017/2018.

However, £5.1 million of that figure has now either been allocated, set aside for future use, or consulted on, according to RBC.

Cllr Tony Page, lead member for strategic environment, planning and transport, said: “The figures being quoted regarding the use of CIL in Reading are out of date, and it is not the case that Reading Borough Council is ‘sitting on’ CIL money.

“Reading introduced the CIL on April 1, 2015 and it is only payable when development starts, which is out of the Council’s control.

“Of the £5.7m quoted, 78 per cent was collected in 2017/18. £2.5m has since been allocated to the Council’s 2017-18 capital programme.

“A further £1.6m has already been earmarked to help fund the 2018/19 capital programme.”

RBC spent £908,000 of its CIL receipts in 2016/17. Around 87 per cent was spent on arts and leisure, including South Street works and artificial pitches at Rivermead. The rest was spent on schools.

15 per cent of the levy receipts - around £994,00,15 in Reading - must be spent on projects agreed with the local community.

A consultation on how to spend this money ended on September 14, 2018, and the council is now considering the responses before it allocates money to specific projects.

A report will come to the next meeting of the strategic environment, planning and transport committee on November 21.

Details of collection and spending of CIL for 2017/18 will be set out in RBC’s Annual Monitoring Report, in December.

James Ketchell, ACE’s communications manager, said: “ACE submitted the same freedom of information request to all councils in England and Wales in July 2018.

“One of the reasons we decided to shine a light on CIL payments was down to the lack of awareness and transparency around this funding, therefore we’re delighted that Cllr Page has now provided more detail on what programmes the money is going to be used for locally.”

The CIL was introduced in 2010 to help local councils secure the revenue needed to handle the impact of new property developments.

The funds can be spent on projects such as improving local transport links or helping to build new schools or GP surgeries.

ACE’s research, released on October 24, found that only 43 per cent of councils in England and Wales (149 out of 348) have implemented the levy.