Maghull Town Council's Labour leader has written to the leader of the previous Lib Dem administration to ask him to explain why he decided to commit nearly £500,000 of Maghull tax payers' money on a new town hall roof.
Labour leader Cllr Caroline Esterson wrote to Lib Dem Cllr Tony Robertson to ask him to explain why he made the expensive decision the day before the election last year when the Liberal Democrats lost control of the town council.
Cllr Esterson said: "The Liberal Democrat leader and his colleagues made the decision to carry out the work based on the Interim Town Clerk's estimate that the work would cost £489,500.
"In the days before last year's election, the Interim Town Clerk at the time is reported in the Champion newspaper confirming the cost of the project. Champion reporter Jim Sharpe wrote: 'Interim Town Clerk John Farrell said that annual repayments will amount to £19,580 over 25 years.'
"Over 25 years, Lib Dem Councillors were told the repayments would come to £489,500.
"Based on that figure, Lib Dem Mayor former Cllr Geoff Howe signed a loan agreement on May 4, 2011. Maghull voters sent the Liberal Democrats packing just the next day as the party was all but wiped out.
"Now, I am again asking Cllr Robertson to explain how he and his Liberal Democrat colleagues made the decision to spend nearly half-a-million-pound of Maghull council tax payers' money on an expensive new roof."
In her letter to Cllr Robertson, Cllr Esterson writes:
"Please help us, and the public; understand the rationale of the previous Administration for undertaking the roof refurbishment as you did. This is a matter that has been asked for previously but no response has been forthcoming and we cannot find the usual business case and reports that would usually support such an important and costly decision. I am sure you appreciate that in today’s times of austerity and with the limited operational consistency at the time, that this is still a matter of some concern. Sefton Audit Department highlighted endemic failings on the part of governance and without having documentation to rely on in this matter, I feel you are duty bound to explain your decision making process so that we understand and are able to close the matter.
"Many figures have been cited in the press which I think is a very powerful illustration of the complexity of the programme and the lack of clarity of governance over the decision. However, the fact that remains clear is that in April 2011 your Administration committed to an expenditure on a project that encumbered the tax payers of Maghull to a loan for which the Council would have to repay £489,500. Whilst I appreciate that these figures have reduced, these were the figures on which you based your decision.
"As such, I would request that you do help the taxpayers of Maghull understand why you felt that spending this money on the roof was a relevant and necessary spend."
Cllr Esterson said she was saddened to have to resort to writing a letter to a fellow councillor to have to get information.
Cllr Esterson said: "We have investigated this roof project very closely for over a year now. We've had independent auditors come in and look at it, and still there are some very serious questions that need answering.
"But each time we ask those questions of the only people who can answer, the Lib Dem councillors who made the decisions, we are met with a wall of silence.
"On one occasion, when we asked one of the Liberal Democrats to explain why they decided to go with an expensive refurbishment of the roof rather than basic repairs, we were met with the response 'If you ask me that again, I'll see you in court.'
"We just want to know their rationale.
"The people of Maghull deserve to know how and why their money is spent.
"That's all we all want to know. I hope Cllr Robertson and his colleagues finally answer that question."