WIRRAL Council has come under fire yet again for its spending habits, less than 24 hours after announced it was to axe 500 jobs.
The authority’s chief executive Graham Burgess warned staff yesterday that they may face compulsory redundancies as it tries to save £57m by 2017.
But despite needing to save £27m this year alone, council chiefs have approved spending £20,000 on leasing an office in Birkenhead for two years - less than two miles from the town hall.
The £10,000-a-year lease, for an office at Birkenhead fire station, will allow the authority’s Birkenhead constituency committee to have a “permanent” office and will act as the location for future meetings.
Opting to lease an office, rather than use an existing council building has sparked anger from opposition councillors.
The other three committees – Wallasey, Wirral South and Wirral West – are all currently based in council-owned buildings.
In a report published on the council’s website, it states: “As the council requires the property for operational purposes no other options have been considered.”
Wallasey Conservative councillor Leah Fraser, who yesterday criticised the council for spending close to £20,000 on redecorating toilets in Wallasey Town Hall, said: “What is it with these people? They just don’t get it. They have put staff under threat of redundancy, they are trying to close the Lyndale School and have spent £17,000 on posh toilets.
“Now they want to lease a building for the exclusive use of councillors and senior managers to use?”
Cllr Fraser added: “It beggars belief, especially when, by their own admission they haven’t even investigated using council owned buildings, not even Birkenhead Town Hall or the numerous other buildings tax payers own, if they’re not fit for operational purposes why is money being thrown at them year in year out.”
Assistant chief executive David Armstrong defended the decision, saying office space at Birkenhead Town Hall is not readily available.
He said: “Birkenhead Community Fire Station was identified as a central, accessible location for the constituency office.
“It is adjacent to partners from fire and ambulance services and has excellent transport links. It also includes use of a number of community rooms.
“Office accommodation at Birkenhead Town Hall is now full with staff re-located from Acre Lane in Bromborough which in turn will be vacated for disposal.
“Current national policy encourages public bodies to co-locate and this is one of a number of arrangements with fire, police and health.”
Opposition councillors have until June 17 to “call-in” the decision.