Calls for resignations over council’s £95m Shrewsbury relief road funding blunder
Resignations are being called for after councillors voted to support a cost rise of £95 million for the North West Relief Road after the figure was mistakenly included in a report.
Shropshire Council’s Labour group says the Conservative administration has made the authority a “national laughing stock”, and wants the two cabinet members it says are responsible for the “failure” to step down.
The councillors involved said they would not be resigning, and accused the party's group leader, Councillor Julia Buckley, of using the issue to score political points.
The meeting saw members vote on changes to the council’s capital strategy, which included the addition of £95.3 million of extra borrowing to cover a “funding gap” in the cost of the road – which would mean the total cost rising from previous estimates of £87m to £182m.
Despite queries from opposition members about where the figure had come from and why there was no mention of it in the report, Councillor Gwilym Butler, portfolio holder for resources, and Councillor Dan Morris, portfolio holder for highways, both spoke at the meeting in defence of allocating the money – but it later transpired that it should never have been included.
Conservative members voted to approve the changes, but after the meeting, the council’s director of resources James Walton apologised and said the amount was accidentally carried over from an earlier draft of the list of projects. He also stressed it was a “holding” figure and not a true estimate of the potential cost.
While the vote did not commit the council to the funding, the blunder went on to make national headlines last week and even prompted a discussion about ‘worst ever typos’ on Radio 2.
Councillor Julia Buckley said: “How can the cabinet members responsible have any credibility left? They didn’t just vote blindly to spend £95m we can’t afford, despite our clear protestations, they spoke passionately in defence of the spend and the vote.