WIRRAL Council’s spending habits have been slammed yet again after it was revealed they spent more than £100,000 on installing a new lift and refurbishing another at Wallasey town hall.
The authority says it has spent around £70,000 on a new lift which is needed to ensure at least one of them is always in service.
A further £56,000 was spent refurbishing the existing elevator, which was installed in 1932 and was deemed to be “not suitable for people with disabilities and young children” due to old fashioned gate mechanism, which had also made the lift “costly to repair”.
The fresh criticism comes just months after Wirral Council came under fire for spending £17,600 on upgrading members’ toilets and £25,000 to replace the carpets on the town hall stairs – which council bosses said were needed due to its popularity as a wedding venue.
The council was also criticised last year after spending £850,000 on a “Downton-Abbey” staircase.
David Armstrong, head of universal and infrastructure services for the authority, defending the latest spending, saying it would increase the number of weddings held at the town hall – which dropped last year “due to major construction work and the lift being out of order for long periods”.
But Wallasey councillor Leah Fraser told the Globe the lift will not be used for brides.
She said: “The new £70,000 lift is located next to the ‘Downton-Abbey’ staircase which cost £850,000 and is only for staff use.
“But apparently the ‘new’ refurbished lift now meets the criteria for the Disability Discrimination Act, are they seriously implying that the old lift didn’t meet these requirements? And if not, why not?
“It raises a number of questions not least, were the council in breach of Health and Safety Regulations and how have members of staff who have a disability managed until now?’
“There are serious questions to answer, however, I’m sure we’ll get the usual excuses.
“I’m appalled that this Labour administration is allowing this expenditure at a time when they’re looking to reduce staff numbers by 500 with possible compulsorily redundancies.”
Mr Armstrong said: “Weddings at Wallasey Town Hall currently generate thousands of pounds in income each year.
“As expected, there was a slight decrease in the number of weddings held at Wallasey town hall last year due to major construction work and the lift being out of order for long periods, which made access to the first floor difficult for some people.”
Mr Armstrong that have been more than 50 weddings held at the town hall so far this year and is “confident that we will see an increase in bookings once building improvements have finished”.
He continued: “The old lift at Wallasey town hall was installed in 1932 and over recent years has become very unreliable and costly to repair.
“It had become a health and safety concern with major components starting to fail and was regularly out of service, meaning there were numerous occasions when individuals couldn’t access their office and members of the public couldn’t get to the first floor, which is unfair and unacceptable.
He added: “Having two lifts means one should always be in service.
“The original lift has been refurbished to replace the old fashioned gate mechanism, which was not suitable for people with disabilities or young people. The lift control mechanisms have been replaced and it has been completely rewired.
“The refurbished lift complies with the Disability Discrimination Act and will mainly serve the public and allow the movement of goods throughout the building.”