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Bill for doomed Friarsgate project will be almost £7million, leader of Lichfield District Council admits

Almost £7million will have been spent on the doomed Friarsgate project, the leader of Lichfield District Council has admitted.

An artist's impression of the Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the Friarsgate development

The scheme is set to be formally axed at a private session of a meeting at the local authority this evening.

The council has so far not revealed the cost of the Friarsgate failure, but the figures have been revealed after opposition Labour group leader Cllr Sue Woodward posed the questions LichfieldLive had publicly asked about the redevelopment.

In a written response, Cllr Mike Wilcox, leader of Lichfield District Council, said £4.35million had been spent to date, with a future £2.5million still likely to be spent on future obligations.

In a verbal reply to the question in the public section of the meeting, he said the money had not been wasted.

“Around £4.5million has been invested in land which we will get a return on,” he said.

“We will be able to use this land to.our advantage and make a return on it.”

But Cllr Woodward insisted the money, which equates to almost £500,000 a year for the period Friarsgate has been on the radar, could not be brushed under the carpet.

“At a time when the council has imposed severe cuts and introduced charges for services, this is not acceptable,” she said.

“Take the brown bin tax, which has been introduced to save around £300,000 a year, yet more has been spent on an aborted project.

“It is a clear lack of leadership.”

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

15 Comments

  1. 66usual

    26th June, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    SEVEN MILLION!!!!!!!! SEVEN %£$”% MILLION QUID!!!!!

  2. 66usual

    26th June, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    these Tories are great at wasting other people’s money.

  3. 66usual

    26th June, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    I’m slightly peeved. What could Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Trust, Sandfields Pumping Station or the We Love Lichfield Fund done with half of that money? Or Fusion Credit Union, or the CAB, or Live at Home? Or the FUSE Festival. Or the Lichfield Festival? Or Lichfield Cathedral? Or getting a decent heritage centre? Or even filling in some of the sodding potholes? SEVEN MILLION BLOODY QUID!!!!!!!!

    Or basically, the whole of Burntwood’s shopping experience.

    Mike, go. Just go, now.

  4. Philip John

    26th June, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    > Council leader Cllr Mike Wilcox insists he makes “no apology” for “good leadership decisions” at #Lichfield District Council

    “Good leadership decisions”?! You know it’s not April f*****g fools day, right? Is Mike Wilcox seriously that deluded that he thinks killing off two local business, risking the livelihoods of a bunch of local residents, forcing residents out of their now demolished homes, lumbering the council with the liability of an increasingly dilapidated multi-storey car park, an ugly demolition site, a redundant police station and a bill of £7 MILLION with absolutely f**k all to show for it?

    Excuse my language but this is a phenomenal s**t show. If Mike Wilcox thinks his decisions on Friarsgate were “good leadership decisions” he clearly isn’t fit for the job.

    Time to go, Mike.

  5. Cllr Rob Birch

    26th June, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    Cllr Wilcox, you are a liability to the people of Lichfield District and sadly a very expensive one.

    Firstly we are told of the £49 million of other people’s money you were hoping to spend, saddling us with massive debts for generations to come. Then it is revealed under duress that close to £7 million has already disappeared from the pockets of council tax payers and vanished into thin air.

    So the question now is, what return can we expect for this investment? We appear to have acquired a pile of rubble where once stood a thriving car sales business and we have the ongoing liability of the multi storey car park, which will undoubtedly need further investment for years to come.

    But should we really be pinning all the blame on Cllr Wilcox? Let’s not forget who put him in that position of power as Council Leader…his fellow Conservative Councillors. They are also going to have to shoulder their fair share of the blame of this shameful fiasco as they have all supported this project over the last few years from conception to its ultimate and expensive demise.

    To compound the insult to the public you discuss your plans in secret, presumably to ensure that people don’t find out what you have been up to. If that isn’t the case, then why not hold these discussions in the public forum? Commercial reasons will only wash so far when last week you breached your own gagging order.

    Thank goodness there are people like Cllr Sue Woodward and her group who have been vocal in calling this farce out for what it is.

  6. nellygb

    27th June, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Thanks Sue

  7. Colin Ball

    27th June, 2018 at 11:19 am

    I’m still struggling to understand how the Tory Councillors could have spent so much of our money and have nothing to show for it, other than jobs lost and businesses closed! They should have put together a Plan B for such an important site and had a phasing plan in place, to allow development in smaller chunks, rather than betting on one big development all in one go. A bet they have clearly now lost – and big time! Mike Wilcox and the remainder of his inept Cabinet should all now resign. I just wish Sue Woodward and the Labour Group could take over this now. Then, I’m sure things would go much better. At the least, there should now be an all party working group to try to sort this out. If I’m elected to the District Council next Thursday, I will be calling for this – and will be prepared to serve on that working group.

    Colin Ball – Labour Party Candidate for City and District Council for Curborough Ward By-Election.

  8. Mike Sandwell

    27th June, 2018 at 11:48 am

    I can foresee a brown bin collection increase to cover this

  9. Mike

    27th June, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    This is a shameful waste of public money brought on by an over-confident Tory strong council who were buoyed by the fact they have such a majority. They are treating us all with contempt because of this, thinking anything they do is backed by the residents of their area. It is an example of what happens in a democracy when you end up with too few voices to raise debate and question nonsense ideas. Fait play to the small number of Labour councillors who have tried their best to hold the Tories to task over this; the electorate need to wake up to voting people in who are just not in it for the people they represent. We should demand a public enquiry over this waste.

  10. Philip Allso

    27th June, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    Mike, you couldn’t be more right. At a planning meeting recently the council reneged on assurances given to local residents over a change of use establishment. Many letters opposing the removal of these assurances that would impose a far worse situation were sent to the council along with an ernest plea for fair play at the meeting. Only the Labour representative spoke in favour of the residents. There was no debate. It was a total farce and went through almost on the nod! There was no explanation for this decision. They were business orientated so anything else was insignificant. There is NO appeal for this decision. Too much power in too few hands is not democracy. Many residents feel disenfranchised from a fair political system. Be assured the above is a single example of how much of our council business is dealt with.

  11. LetsGiveItaSpin

    27th June, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    The decisions and the strategy rarely come from councillors , but actually from council managers whom make recommendations and proposals insisting that councillors should agree them. Councillors do not write reports , officers and senior management write counci, reports with recommendations for elected councillors to agree or to refuse (rarely the second option)

    Councillors are just the mouths pieces of the organisation, behind them there is a council management team that decide what and when decisions are made ….

    £7million seems far to low , taking into. Account land purchases, Compulsory Purchase Orders, demolition and site security costs , the project manager that was employed to manage the project , consultants costs , legal advice, officer and members time, planning application fees to mention a number… The cost is likely to be actually nearer £10-12Million

    The council should be forced to reveal in public the content of all reports and financial statements , under freedom of information act….

  12. Philip Allso

    27th June, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    You are totally right ‘LetsGiveItaSpin’. Letters and communications rarely get as far as the elected council. The puppet masters make the decisions and the sheep follow. This is deeply worrying. What can be done to reverse this disproportionate power these unelected officers wield? I suppose the civil service have similar powers at national level. So we don’t have a democracy at all, only in name. It is made much easier for this present debacle when there is virtually no opposition. As they say, ‘In politics you get what you deserve’. I could never have thought it would get this bad.

  13. AnnS

    28th June, 2018 at 11:13 am

    @LetsGiveItaspin – “The council should be forced to reveal in public the content of all reports and financial statements , under freedom of information act….”
    Good idea. When are you going to apply?

  14. 66usual

    28th June, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    Letsgiveitaspin – thats utter cobblers. Officers take direction from elected members. The Cabinet met regularly, and officers aren’t allowed to speak. Some meetings have been held in private, such as Group Meetings, when officers are present, let alone allowed to speak. That’s a really unfair comment, Mike, (for I am assuming it is you) to slag your officers off for your failing.

    As for FOI, send in a request, why not?

  15. Philip Allso

    29th June, 2018 at 8:42 am

    @66usual. Local politics are very difficult to unravel exactly where the chain of command lies. In affect I think that both you and ‘Mike?’ are right. For large and development issues the elected council hold sway, albeit with guidence from council officers. For domestic issues it is my experience that the elected council only rubber stamp recommendations from heads of office. Indeed one sugested to me that there would have to be good legal reasons to do otherwise. Surprisingly this is in line with the Local Government Act. The officers have to follow a code of practice which includes impartiality. Contested cases can be debated by council committee’s, but these are usually a sinecure. Democracy is a bar of wet soap. If you think the elected council make all the decisions then this is far from the truth.

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