An opposition councillor has been slammed and accused of “language worthy of Handforth Parish Council” for his criticism of the council’s spending plans on local projects.

Speaking at Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) Policy committee on Monday (February 15), Green councillor Rob White raised concern about the council’s spending plans on local projects using Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding from developments.

The committee approved the £1.5 million of spending on projects across the town including pedestrian crossings, repairing a cycle path and play area works, but Cllr White suggested the way the schemes have been prioritised “reinforces the impression this money is being used as a Labour councillor slush fund”.

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The council also voted to make consultations more general, rather than asking for opinions on specific schemes.

Cllr White said: “Last time the council consulted on projects, Labour councillors ignored many priorities and gave priority to some schemes which hadn’t been prioritised whatsoever.

“The opinion research survey the council carried out of 1,000 residents says the things most in need of improvement are crime reduction, congestion, tackling housing issues and parking improvements.

“So I would have thought the Upper Redlands Road pedestrian crossing scheme.

“The Labour lead councillors are making the decisions, consultation is only going to be every three or four years and the consultation is going to be on general priorities rather than specific schemes.

“Not to mention, we have got Labour councillors moving schemes at the last minute. It would have been much appreciated to have got some notice of changes to the schemes.

“All of this only reinforces the impression this money is being used as a Labour councillor slush fund”.

A slush fund is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “an amount of money that is kept for dishonest or illegal activities in politics or business”.

The comments were slammed by Labour member Adele Barnett-Ward as “language worthy of Handforth Parish Council” in a tweet during the meeting.

Cllr Adele-Barnett Ward

Cllr Adele-Barnett Ward

And leader of the council Jason Brock, speaking at the meeting, said the money is going to several areas where there are non-Labour members, while Cllr Rowland said Labour councillors represent across the town and think across the town, “provide the benefits that make living better for people across the town”.

Cllr White was responding to Councillor Tony Jones, a Labour ward member for Redlands, requesting that a skate park scheme initially proposed to be built in Cintra Park instead be constructed in Rabsons Rec and added to the list of schemes to be approved immediately.

When developments take place in Reading, as part of approving planning permission, the council asks developers to pay towards local infrastructure such as improving play areas and pedestrian crossings.

This is part of national planning law applied by all local planning authorities.

The law specifies that 15 per cent of this Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) money must be spent within the local area where development occurs and this is what was being voted on at the meeting.

Expanding on his comments after the meeting, Cllr White said: “I’m concerned that the CIL local contribution money is another example of Reading Labour’s consult and ignore approach.

“This money is meant to be spent on priorities identified by local communities.

“Last night Labour councillors watered down the consultation process.

“An example of Labour councillors running roughshod over the process was given at the meeting this week when with no notice one of the schemes was swapped around to a different ward.

“If any other councillor from a different political party had suggested swapping round the schemes on the night with zero notice Labour councillors would have ridiculed this, but when one of their own does so they don’t bat an eyelid.

“I don’t believe any law has been broken but this gives members of the public the impression that this pot of money is being used as a Labour councillor slush fund.”

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Responding, Cllr Brock said: “Residents across Reading have benefitted from projects funded by the CIL and will continue to do so over the coming years.

“Reading Labour councillors have a long and proud record of working with local residents to deliver the improvements that people want, with upgrades to play equipment, new 20mph zones, improvements to community centres, and extra pedestrian crossings being just some of the initiatives from the previous funding round.

Councillor Jason Brock

Councillor Jason Brock

“When an opposition councillor has to clarify his comments in the press after a rant in a meeting it becomes quite clear he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.

“The real issue is that the Conservative government are now looking to change planning laws to allow developers to run roughshod over local communities’ wishes and fighting this is something Labour will be focusing its efforts on.”

The addition of a skate park at Rabsons Rec to the plans, proposed by Cllr Jones, was approved.