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Royal Borough councillor defends £100m borrowing bill to pay for schools and roads

The Royal Borough faces a ‘Catch 22’ situation in ensuring roads and schools are built in time to meet the demand of new homes being built, a councillor has claimed.

Cllr MJ Saunders (Con, Bisham and Cookham), cabinet member for finance, acknowledged the difficult position for the council while taking questions on spending plans for next year.

Quizzed at last night’s (Monday) Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Panel on a potentially ‘stormy economic outlook’ in the coming years, he was asked whether he thought it wise to commit to about £100million-worth of borrowing to fund capital projects.

But instead Cllr Saunders argued that the scale of need meant it was not necessarily advisable to wait for the usual contributions from developers to pay for such schemes.

He said: “We’re in a substantial Catch 22 when it comes to managing the impact of servicing the housing and commercial needs of the Royal Borough, which are likely to grow over the next 15 years.

“It’s perfectly reasonable for residents to seek, to the greatest degree that we can provide it, assurances that the necessary infrastructure in highways or education or a variety of other expenditure, including leisure centres and the like, that the delivery of that will be assured.

“Normally the default arrangement is that developer contributions are sufficiently adequate to fund the necessary infrastructure that the greater demand then places.

“However, that doe not necessarily practically ensure that much of that infrastructure is in place prior to its need.”

Cllr Saunders was also asked what had been done with more than £1million given to the council through the government’s Flexible Homelessness Support Grant to fund homelessness services.

He said he expected most of this cash t have been spent by the end of the financial year and a further grant of about £1.2million was expected in 2018/19.

However, he also warned the Royal Borough could not bank on receiving any more money through the scheme from 2019/20.

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