Council forced to apologise after squandering £500,000 renovating reception and demolishing empty buildings
- Forest of Dean District Council was criticised for its ‘scandalous waste’
- Authority spent nearly £400,000 renovating reception area at offices
- Another £120,000 was used on demolishing a building they failed to sell
- It was attacked for shutting tourism offices and imposing waste charges
- Apology has been posted on authority’s website and in press releases
A council has been forced to issue a ‘complete and utter’ apology for squandering over £500,000 of taxpayers’ money.
Forest of Dean District Council accepted a humiliating motion criticising it for ‘scandalous waste’ over the past eight years after an ambush by Labour members.
They forced through the vote, demanding an ‘unqualified apology’, when the ruling Conservatives were left short of numbers at a meeting this week.
Forest of Dean District Council was forced to apologise for squandering over £500,000 on renovation work
The council was criticised for spending nearly £400,000 on renovating a reception area at its offices and another £120,000 on demolishing a building which they failed to sell and which has lain empty for four years.
It was also attacked for shutting the district’s tourism information offices and imposing charges for pest control, bulk waste and garden waste collections and car parking.
The apology has already been posted on the authority’s website and in press releases.
Labour councillor Di Martin, who introduced the motion, said the Conservative administration, which has run the council in Gloucestershire for eight years, ‘has failed miserably to listen to the people of the Forest of Dean and as a result they have been badly let down, an unqualified apology is due’.
Tory council leader Patrick Molyneux explained his party had abstained from voting against the embarrassing motion
She added: ‘An apology is needed for the scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money on the refurbishment of the district council’s reception area [at a cost of £383,320].
‘The cost of refurbishment was meant to be recouped by the sale of Lawnstone House, which is now to be demolished at a further cost of £120,000.’
Last night Tory council leader Patrick Molyneux explained why his party had abstained from voting against the embarrassing motion, which he dismissed as a ‘blatant piece of electioneering’.
‘We didn’t take part in the debate. We were down on our numbers and we weren’t sure we’d have the support to win in the chamber so we didn’t vote,’ he said. ‘We don’t regret it because it’s a stupid motion – it’s ill-founded and if anybody should hang their head in shame it is Di Martin.
‘We were voted the most-improved council in the country in 2013 and if that’s something we should apologise for, she’s completely lost the plot.’
Mr Molyneux added that the renovation work to the council’s offices – which included £13,550 to replace a CCTV system – was essential as it made the building more accessible to the disabled.
‘It does seem like a lot but the old block where the reception was wasn’t disabled friendly. If she thinks that’s a waste of money, she’s missing the plot.’
Independent members of the council criticised the ‘mud-slinging contest’ between the two main parties.
Forest Council – an apology
Wednesday, 11 March 2015
THE Forest Council has issued an apology for its own record over the last eight years.
The opposition Labour group successfully put a motion to the council that it issue a “complete and utter apology to the people of the Forest of Dean”.
Usually, critical motions are voted down by the Conservatives, the largest single group on the authority, but last Wednesday the numbers were against them and so a terse, four word apology appears on the council’s website.
It explains that the council passed the motion, out down by Labour group leader Cllr Di Martin (Cinderford East) and, after the statement in full, it simply adds: “The council therefore apologises.”
Leader of the council, Cllr Patrick Molyneux (Con, Woolaston and Hewelsfield) defended the council’s record – and branded the motion “a political stunt.”.
Cllr Martin attacked what she called the “scandalous waste” of taxpayers’ money on revamping the reception area at the council’s headquarters in Coleford.
She claimed that the cost was meant to be covered by the sale of Lawnstone House in Coleford but that building is now to be demolished at a further cost of £120,000.
The Labour leader also highlighted:
• the closure of tourist information centres.
• “higher and higher” charges for pest control.
• charges for bulk waste collection “that has led to an explosion in fly-tipping”.
• charges for garden waste and for car parking.
• the “refusal” of the Conservative administration to make policy changes voted for by a majority of councillors.
• the “shabby” treatment of the public at council meetings.
• staff reductions “leaving the Forest exposed to…scatter gun development opportunities.”
• The haste with which the 20-20 project for shared services with other councils is being moved forward.
Cllr Martin said: The existing Conservative administration has failed miserably to listen to the people of the Forest of Dean and as a result they have been badly let down. An unqualified apology is due.”
Cllr Molyneux said: “A bunch of our members and some we look to on the Independent party weren’t present at the meeting which had resumed – had it been on the Thursday we would have robustly defended the motion carried by Di Martin.
“Her argument is an obvious political stunt which aims to embarrass us as a party but it was her very party who put the council into special measures in 2007, when we took over, forcing us to make tough financial savings. We have since not only turned this around but saved the council £4million.
“The council should absolutely not have to apologise, but they have, and done so, by posting a statement on its website. If Cllr Martin thinks it’s a ‘scandalous waste’ for us to waste money making the reception area more disabled-friendly then they need to get their priorities right. I hope that people will see through this. We will recoup the money from Lawnstone House once we get a better understanding of how we can do this.”
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