Confusion over football stadium cash

A TOWN council has committed �50,000 of taxpayers' money to a football club's expansion project after a mix-up with funding, it can be revealed.

Russell Claydon

A TOWN council has committed �50,000 of taxpayers' money to a football club's expansion project after a mix-up with funding, it can be revealed.

Voluntary organisations and residents are set to feel the pinch in Sudbury as a result of the massive unbudgeted spending - which has forced a 6% rise in council tax.

A row has now broken out amongst councillors over how they got themselves in a situation where finance chiefs at AFC Sudbury believed �50,000 was definitely being handed over.

But councillors had understood the payment towards the �2.1 million redevelopment of the King's Marsh Stadium would only be made if planning gain money could be obtained, a bid which subsequently fell through.

After they were told AFC's bid for money to the Football Association hinged on their funding going through they decided to dip into their reserves, rather than risk responsibility for its collapse.

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Nigel Bennett, a Sudbury town councillor, said: “There has been no row with AFC Sudbury over this. The row is internal about how the situation came about.

“The problem is how a commitment was, in a sense, made when it had not been made. We had not heard about the Section 106 money and someone led them (AFC) to believe we definitely had the money and we have had to pick up the pieces.”

The situation came to a head at an extraordinary meeting of the council on December 7 where councillors voiced their concerns over the circumstances surrounding a grant of �20,000 to the club to be added to one of �30,000. As a result of the unbudgeted spending a 6% increase in the town precept - �7 extra on a Band D property - was forced through at Tuesday's meeting.

Sue Brotherwood, clerk of Sudbury Town council, said: “The town council have resolved in the future they will not be led into a situation where they will have to pay things that are not budgeted.

“That �50,000, as you can imagine, has made a tremendous hole in our budget. We have gone through and cut grants as a direct result of trying to find this money.

“AFC said if we did not give that money the whole thing would fail. We were in a no-win situation with me trying to find �50,000 and I could not get the books to balance. Although it is 6%, and that seems a lot, it is only 6% of a very little pot.”

She added: “All the councillors will take every step to make sure this never happens again.”

Mark Pearman, a director of AFC Sudbury, said: “All I can say is Sudbury Town Council made a commitment, as did Babergh Distirct Council and Suffolk County Council, that allowed us to get investment of over half a million pounds for the King's Marsh site. It is not purely for the stadium, it is for a broader community facility.”

He would not be drawn into further details, only to say it involved a future announcement on their community pavilion, part of the redevelopment.

“Most of the investment we have received is for community facilities, not in relation to building the clubhouse,” he added.

The redevelopment of King's Marsh Stadium began in the summer and work is on course for completion in May.