Published: 16:22, 20 November 2020
| Updated: 16:30, 20 November 2020
Cash contributed by housing developers for community projects and supporting school places could be used to prop up funding repairs for the Medway Tunnel.
The strategy is being considered by Medway Council as part of plans to secure a long-term solution to maintain the vital road link.
But the move has been branded as showing the "desperate measures" being considered with Labour opposition questioning the tactic to "plug the financial hole".
Figures show the tunnel – used by 50,000 drivers per day before the pandemic – costs Medway taxpayers £415,000-a-year after the council bought the tunnel for £1 in 2009 and an additional £14,000 every three years.
Cllr Andy Stamp, Labour's spokesman for regeneration, accused the council of a "continuing failure" with regards to funding the maintenance costs.
The Conservative administration has received grants from central government and the Department for Transport (DfT) as well as redirecting funds for other highways projects in the council's roads budgets
In February, the council announced it was receiving almost £5 million in government funding to pay for repairs and routine maintenance work.
Financial pressures in the authority's budgets last December revealed a £670,000 shortfall casting doubts over whether repair works would have been carried out.
The council says it is now awaiting a decision from the Treasury over whether to approve a funding bid to the DfT following ongoing discussions with Whitehall.
Speaking on the plans revealed in council documents to use the Section 106 money agreed with developers, Cllr Stamp said it was an "alarming" suggestion.
He added: "Section 106 contributions are supposed to provide funds for affordable housing, improving the environment and green spaces as well as supporting local healthcare services – not maintaining an existing tunnel that we should not have bought in the first place.
"By redirecting these vital community funds, the council is treating local people with contempt."
Debate about how the Conservatives and Labour propose to manage the Medway Tunnel has rumbled on for more than two years.
"By redirecting these vital community funds, the council is treating local people with contempt..."
Tory leader Alan Jarrett caused a stir last March when he claimed Labour's manifesto for the council elections suggested the opposition wanted to pull funding for the tunnel leading to its closure.
This was debunked immediately as "fake news" by the Labour group which says it wants funds to be provided by central government to ensure the tunnel remains open and is not a direct cost from Medway's council tax coffers.
But Cllr Jarrett again made the claims when responding to the Messenger about the latest criticism from Labour and when questioned about the council's latest position with regards to sourcing funds for the tunnel.
He said: "I find it somewhat ironic that the Labour Group is choosing to concern itself with the Medway Tunnel given that only last year their election manifesto revealed their utter contempt for this lifeline for Medway residents and commuters, as the Labour plan to withdraw all funding and see the tunnel close was revealed.
"Under this Conservative administration, the council has been consistently proactive in seeking funding opportunities to maintain this essential piece of infrastructure."
Cllr Jarrett confirmed the council is using money awarded earlier this year to fund "a programme of capital investment" in the tunnel.
It has also been confirmed the £3.6m dowry fund from the Rochester Bridge Trust which was agreed when the council took over running the tunnel 11 years ago, has been emptied.