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Bid to block Wirral Council spending £20,000 on new office
A SENIOR Wirral councillor has launched a bid to halt the authority's decision to spend £20,000 on new office accommodation at the same time as 500 jobs are at risk.
Wirral Council came under fire again last week for its spending habits, less than 24 hours after chief executive Graham Burgess warned staff that they may face compulsory redundancies due to a £57m budget shortfall.
Wirral needs to save around £27m this year alone, and council chiefs came under fire for approving spending £20,000 on leasing an office at Birkenhead fire station for two years - less than two miles from the town hall.
The £10,000-a-year lease will allow the authority's Birkenhead constituency committee to have a permanent base and will act as a location for future meetings.
A report published on the local authority's website states: "As the council requires the property for operational purposes no other options have been considered."
Oxton Liberal Democrat councillor Stuart Kelly has now launched a bid to use his "call-in" procedures to delay the decision and force further debate on the issue.
"The report makes clear that no other options were considered. I think councillors need to be certain that there isn't already space in any of the council's estate in Birkenhead," said Cllr Kelly.
"My understanding is the HMRC has left the Conway building for example, isn't this space now available?
"With the level of savings the council needs to make over the next few years it is vital that we put all expenditure under review and scrutiny."
Wallasey Conservative councillor Leah Fraser also criticised the spending.
She said: "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?
"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 that taxpayers own.
"iif they're not fit for operational purposes, why is money being thrown at them year in, year out?"
Assistant chief executive David Armstrong last week 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.
"Current national policy encourages public bodies to co-locate and this is one of a number of arrangements with fire, police and health."
Councillor Kelly's call-in requires six council members to sign up by this Tuesday, June 17 to be referred to a committee for debate.
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