The local branch of the Green Party says it is “staggered” by Lichfield District Council’s plan to stump up £49million to ensure the Friarsgate development goes ahead.
The long-awaited development has been delayed due to issues with securing private finance.
But now Lichfield District Council is exploring proposals to fund the project itself – which LichfieldLive yesterday revealed could see a bill of around £49million.
The Green Party branch in Lichfield and Burntwood said the use of tax payer cash to pay for Friarsgate should not even be considered at a time when locals are feeling the pinch.
“Residents across Lichfield and Burntwood are at the sharp end of ever-deepening cuts to public services,” said the party’s spokesman Simon Partridge. “They’re being asked to pay more and more for less and less – this year it’s the brown bin tax, next year who knows?
“Yet the council are somehow going to find the money to finance a shopping centre that private investors won’t come within a mile of.
“It’s an act of sheer financial recklessness.”
The Green Party has also criticised Lichfield District Council’s use of exemption rules to ensure discussions around Friarsgate have been held behind closed doors.
Mr Partridge added: “When you add the complete secrecy surrounding the whole project, then you have a very troubling situation indeed.
“Just what is being concealed behind the wall of so-called ‘commercial sensitivity’?
“The people of Lichfield and Burntwood deserve better – they deserve to know the facts before this goes any further.”
The leader of Lichfield District Council, Cllr Mike Wilcox, has insisted no final decision has been made.
“The majority of the major Friarsgate milestones are now in place, and we are working with U+I to assemble the final piece of the jigsaw, which is the funding to deliver the scheme,” he said.
“As part of this, councillors were informally briefed on the opportunity for the council to fund the scheme at a meeting on May 22.
“This is an approach that has been taken by a number of other councils across the country to successfully kick start major developments.
“No decisions have been made and the opportunity is being explored in greater depth as part of a programme of decision making.”