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UPDATED: Wirral Council U-turn over spending £20,000 on new Birkenhead office
A U-TURN over spending £20,000 on leasing an office in Birkenhead less than two miles from the town hall has been welcomed by members of the opposition.
Wirral Council came under fire for its decision to approve the two-year lease at Birkenhead fire station at a time when 500 jobs are to be axed in a bid to save £57m.
The £10,000-a-year lease would have allowed 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 authority's website admitted that "no other options have been considered" as the council required the property for "operational purposes".
But Oxton Liberal Democrat councillor Stuart Kelly found this unacceptable and opted to use his “call-in” procedures to delay the decision and force further debate on the issue.
After receiving cross-party support from six other councillors, the decision was due to be looked at by a scrutiny committee but Wirral Council today announced it would not be approving the lease after all and will instead review other suitable council-owned premises.
In an email received by those involved in the call-in, it states: “This supersedes the original decision in that no lease is to be taken in respect of an office at the Birkenhead fire station as outlined in the report and instead a review is to be undertaken of other suitable council owned premises for the location of the constituency team.
“Discussions are ongoing with the chief executive and the lead signatory, who has been invited to withdraw the call-in, in view of it having been negated by the revised decision that has now been taken.”
Cllr Kelly said: "I am delighted that the cabinet member has performed the U-turn and that the matter is going to be given some proper scrutiny and that other options are going to be looked at.
"The question has to be raised as to why that wasn't his first thought when the report was first put in front of him. The question also has to be raised about the decision making process.
"These are questions we will have to raise again in the future."
Cllr Kelly added: "I just have to convince them to keep Lyndale open now, cut the grass and keep the street lights on."
Green Party councillor Pat Cleary – one of those to sign the call-in – said: “I am pleased the cabinet has seen sense and I look forward to the outcome of the review which I trust will find a way to utilise existing council assets.”
Chief Executive Graham Burgess said: "We have received representations from a number of councillors regarding occupying office space in Birkenhead Fire Station so the cabinet member has decided not to proceed and we are reviewing alternatives.
“We are always keen to ensure that we get value for money when looking at office space.”
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