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Labour leader claims secret Friarsgate Plan B group shows Conservatives have not learned their lesson

The controlling Conservative group at Lichfield District Council have been accused of not learning their lesson about transparency after the collapse of the Friarsgate scheme.

Lichfield District Council House

Lichfield District Council House

The long-awaited redevelopment was finally axed after it emerged funding could not be secured for the project, despite more than a decade of planning.

The council’s leadership were also criticised for a lack of transparency in the lead up to the doomed scheme failing as meetings were consistently held behind closed doors.

But opposition Labour group leader, Cllr Sue Woodward, has accused the Tories of carrying on regardless after claiming a single-party group had secretly been put together to draw up a Plan B for the Birmingham Road site.

“It’s three months since the whole Friarsgate project fell apart,” Cllr Woodward said. “Now it emerges that discussions have been taking place privately among Conservative councillors about how to take the Plan B discussions forward.

“The Labour group have consistently called for a cross-party working group on this, but the leadership has not even had the courtesy to consult with us or tell us what they are planning, let alone informing the electors of Lichfield District.

Cllr Sue Woodward

Cllr Sue Woodward

“I found out purely by chance at a council meeting last week that the leadership at the council is proposing a task group as a sub-group of a Scrutiny Committee. They have even decided on the number of members and a chairman but there have been no indications of what this task group’s remit is.

“There is nothing for a task group to scrutinise as there is nothing on the table yet – or at least, nothing that I or other opposition members have been made aware of.

“It seems to me that they have still not learnt the lessons from the fallout of the whole Friarsgate fiasco and, yet again, are acting as a one-party state.”

Conservative council leader Mike Wilcox has previously said any plan B for Friarsgate would involve consultation with key parties.

But Cllr Woodward, who used the questions asked publicly by LichfieldLive to uncover the full scale of the development’s failure – including the fact taxpayers will have paid out £7million on the project, even though a brick will never be laid – claimed the new “secret” group showed that the Conservative administration once again want discussions to be out of public gaze.

“Having poured so much money into the black hole that is now the Birmingham Road site – they have unilaterally ditched the name Friarsgate – it looks like they are just carrying on regardless,” Cllr Woodward said.

“It was unacceptable earlier this year for them to ignore public and opposition views and it is doubly unacceptable now.”

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  1. Rob

    26th August, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    Labour lecturing anyone on not learning lessons shows a distinct lack of “English irony”.

  2. David Cameron

    27th August, 2018 at 9:23 am

    Get the other parties involved. The populace of Lichfield deserve to know what is or is not going on.

  3. Michel Souris

    28th August, 2018 at 8:26 am

    Wilcox never explains his actions and so the populace should not hold its breath over this topic. Sue is correct, such a major investment in the city needs cross-party collaboration.