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Fury as cash-strapped Wirral Council spends £25,000 on new stair carpet
Updated 9:03am Tuesday 11th March 2014 in News
Lyndale children pictured on the carpet-free marble staircase at Wallasey Town Hall last week as their parents fought to save the school from closure
A ROW has blown up over council spending after it was disclosed a new stair carpet for Wallasey Town Hall has been fitted - at a cost of £25,000.
The eye-watering revelation came at a time when public services are being hit by severe cuts.
And officials were blasted last year after spending £800,000 on a new staircase for the listed town hall.
They pointed out today that the carpet for the main entrance stairway has not been replaced since 1968.
But Conservative councillors are astonished by the expenditure, which they see as frivolous at a time when the authority is struggling to slash £44m from its budget.
Wallasey councillor Leah Fraser said: “This must be some kind of joke.
“I noticed the Globe carried a picture this week of Lyndale children at the town hall.
“Their mums and dads had that very evening been told their school still faces a threat of closure due to costs.
“Ironically, the children were photographed on a staircase for which £25,000 had been found to replace the carpet.
“The council preaches austerity and belt-tightening for taxpayers, while at the same time squandering their hard-earned cash on sprucing up the town hall.
“It is actually offensive.”
David Armstrong, Wirral’s head of universal and infrastructure services, said: “The council is replacing carpets in areas that are used during the wedding ceremonies that regularly take place in Wallasey town hall, following a number of complaints from attendees.
“Every year, there are around 200 such ceremonies, held on Fridays and Saturdays, raising in the region of £20,000 per year which is then reinvested.
“The carpets in these areas have been not been replaced since 1968.
“The cost of purchasing the carpet and fitting it is around £25,000, which was allocated in 2012/13’s budget.”
He said the carpet was sourced from a local firm, but fitted by a second company following the first’s winding up.
“This did not affect the overall cost of the process,” added Mr Armstrong.
More than 6,500 people have signed a petition to save Lyndale.
The council says based on current projections, the school is expected to see a funding shortfall of £70,000 for 2014/15 which "may increase in future years".
What has happened since the closure threat was first announced in December?
December 12: Wirral Council announced it was “minded” to close the school.
December 16: A petition to save the school reaches 3,000 signatures (it now has 6,428).
December 20: Parents ask the council for more time before a report is submitted to cabinet.
January 16: Wirral’s ruling cabinet agrees to consult on the closure of Lyndale.
January 21: Tory lead describes closing Lyndale as an "act of educational vandalism".
January 29: Opposition councillors “call-in” the decision and ask for it to be reviewed.
February 4: Call-in meeting cancelled after bureaucratic bungling means council is in breach of its own constitution.
February 11: Education Secretary Michael Gove pledges his support for the school.
February 14: Wirral South MP Alison McGovern chairs a public meeting over Lyndale’s future.
February 27: Co-ordinating committee uphold cabinet’s decision in rearranged call-in meeting.
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