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Criticism over Lichfield District Council’s plan to spend £90,000 on two officials to oversee new Friarsgate proposals

Councillors in Lichfield and Burntwood have criticised plans to spend £90,000 a year on officials to help sort out the future of land left empty by the collapse of the Friarsgate scheme.

Lichfield District Council House

Lichfield District Council House

Now renamed the Birmingham Road Site, the land had been earmarked for redevelopment as part of the long-awaited city centre project.

However, the failure to secure private funding and subsequent collapse of the project has left Lichfield District Council with a £7million bill and large plots of land lying dormant.

An artist's impression of the new Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the Friarsgate development

Labour councillors claim the local authority wants to spend £90,000 a year on officers to work on future proposals for the site – although the council says one of the two posts would be a re-graded and re-titled role rather than a new one.

Cllr Sue Woodward, leader of the opposition Labour group at Lichfield District Council, claimed that the money was being spent by the controlling Conservative group to “cover their embarrassment over Friarsgate”.

“I was shocked to learn that two of the new posts being discussed were specifically to lead on the post-Friarsgate project at the Birmingham Road site,” she said. “Others were too, including some Conservative councillors I have spoken to.

“At a time when many council staff have been made redundant, services have been and are still being cut and additional charges imposed, such as the bin tax, I do not think this is acceptable.

“I’m especially annoyed and concerned that the Conservative administration is spending £90,000 simply to cover their embarrassment over the Friarsgate fiasco which has already cost the authority well over £7million.

“My colleagues and I could suggest many alternative projects for which £90,000 would make a huge difference for residents of this District and their families. The Conservative administration just isn’t listening and do not seem to have learned any lessons from their failures over Friarsgate.”

Taxpayers’ money

The decision follows the recent creation of a member group to look at how the now-derelict site can be developed for the future.

Diane Evans

Diane Evans

Cllr Di Evans, deputy leader of the Labour opposition group, said: “The member working group has so far only met once and has yet to report to or engage with all council members, let alone the public, so I find it surprising that these posts are being proposed now for a project that hasn’t even been properly scoped.

“The Conservative administration is spending even more taxpayers’ money on officers to take forward a project that no one knows about.

“There have been some suggested schemes for the old Friarsgate site and discussions in private but we have been given no idea at all as yet of the total costs.”

Lichfield District Council has not commented on the issues raised by the Labour councillors.

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20 Comments

  1. Joanne Grange

    29th October, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    I checked the date, but it doesn’t appear to be 1 April… I must’ve missed the part of the spending consultation questionnaire about this new cost that LDC think is a good use of our council tax. If this was the plot of a sitcom it might be funny, but it’s not. This is our money, being wasted because Cllr Wilcox et al are out of ideas.

  2. LetsGiveItASpin

    29th October, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    £7Million plus £90k , plus demolition costs of old police station, demolition of small business units at the end of bus station, the moving of a major electricity cable and gas main, removal of the old petrol tanks on the now cleared Birmingham road site… new proposals to be drawn up , new consultants , new Estates Management Team … = £9 million before a brick has even been laid. At what stage does Lichfield stop this madness. Who has to go officers or members or both?

  3. Flossy

    29th October, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    Cart & Horse are appropriate

  4. Simon

    30th October, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Yes… the developers played a blinder: get the local authority to pay for the enabling works without them investing a penny. Just shows a council with a very naive attitude toward commercial development and one that was influenced by the appeal of nothing more than a glossy website and corporate branding. At the first sign of an issue the developers and any likely investors bailed.
    Still, at least they didn’t leave the site half built.
    Let’s make the space a world class visitors centre – as soon as you come out of Lichfield City train station or pass under the bridge down Upper St John Street visitors need to be met with something that shows the history, culture and future of Lichfield. It can also show a clear trail to the Cathedral, taking in the considerable heritage on show along the way. Better than grey hoarding!

  5. LetsGiveItASpin

    30th October, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    @simon great idea for a visitors centre and or museum with possible conference centre to bring business and conferences to lichfield which will generate income and possibly big businesses to setup in Lichfield to support a conference

  6. Ron

    30th October, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    Great ideas from @Simon and @LetsGiveItASpin. Just saved ourselves £90K

  7. LetsGiveItASpin

    31st October, 2018 at 10:46 am

  8. Joanne Grange

    31st October, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    And very interesting that it’s being advertised as a permanent job… Surely if this was just geared to solving the Friarsgate problem it would be just a temporary job? Or is this scope creep and empire building rearing its ugly head?

  9. Strumpet

    1st November, 2018 at 8:00 am

    ‘Helen Bielby, Major Development Projects Manager’. So whatcha been doing for the past couple of years, Mrs?

  10. John Griffin

    1st November, 2018 at 8:28 am

    You couldn’t make it up, idiocy, corruption, or both. Secure in power, Fantasy Lichfield.

  11. Looby Lou

    1st November, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Here is an idea – why don’t they consider the option of advertising the posts as volunteer positions? Many of us who serve the community have found our paid roles reduced to volunteering to keep services afloat over the past few years.

  12. N Mickham

    2nd November, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    @JohnGriffin talking of Fantasy Lichfield love the first sentence of the job description, did Cllr Wilcox pen this. “Lichfield District Council has ambitious plans to bring forward key development as part of our economic growth agenda.”

  13. BB

    4th November, 2018 at 10:00 am

    I care very deeply about what happens next on the redevelopment. Some great ideas suggested here. Community/voluntary engagement is much needed on this. Have i missed the public consultation?

    Anyone know if there a public action/lobby group that i could get involved in?

  14. Steve

    4th November, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    I would be happy to pay £1 million for anyone who would be able to sort the Friarsgate mess and deliver something other than housing.

    The role seems to be little more than preparing reports and sending out begging letters to any funds Lichfield can try and get money from (no matter the implications).

    Mistakes made now, will cost us for generations to come.

    I agree there are many clever people in Lichfield whos skills would be able to come up with some interesting proposals. The issue is, the council has no budget. They have blown it on buying land that no one wants.

    Soon Mr Wilcox will be there telling us, he has fought hard for us and has managed to get 750 homes developed on the site.

    Lichfield is getting so congested, the constant building is crazy.

  15. Sminty

    4th November, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Oh FFS – please tell me this is part of a sick joke to test the patience of Lichfield Taxpayers?? How much more is anyone going to take of this crap? £7m of taxpayers money gone up in smoke because of the councils inability to properly manage the project (they blame the private investors – and they would, wouldn’t they). Don’t believe it – it’s the council who “invest” your money – so they are accountable for it. And now a further £90k of our money to try to make something of the mess caused my their ineptitude!!! If you, myself, or anyone else managed a project which lost £7m of tax payers money AND incurred additional costs of £90k per year to put right – we would (quite rightly) be sacked.

    How do we get these cretins out pre-local council elections?

  16. LetsGiveItASpin

    8th November, 2018 at 10:22 am

  17. Froglanerebel

    8th November, 2018 at 10:47 am

    People need to make a freedom of information request – asking for a breakdown of costs incurred in relation to Friarsgate. They should also request information of pay rises to Snr Leaders of the council. This is an absolute scandal. Wilcox must surely resign?

  18. DS

    8th November, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/

    FOI Can then be shared via this website. A few for LDC already on here

  19. Joanne Grange

    9th November, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Interesting link…. Especially the credit card bill that’s been loaded in error against the capital receipts and redundancies question. Wonder what we’ve paid for through paypal and three Amazon purchases?

  20. LetsGiveItASpin

    12th November, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    At least they are meeting now to discuss the BRS (Birmingham Road Site) though this meeting must have taken all of 5 minutes !

    https://democracy.lichfielddc.gov.uk/documents/s5503/BRS%20Task%20Group%20Meeting%20Notes%2025%20Oct%202018%20v2.pdf

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