POLITICAL spats continue to dog debates about future funding for Pokesdown station improvements.

The controlling BCP Conservative group have been criticised for a social media message and leaflets put through local doors to say the improvements will happen, before they were agreed.

Opposition councillors who disapprove of £2.6m of council money going to the rail operator have been described as ‘a group of fit men with the need to make a political point’.

Wednesday’s cabinet meeting voted unanimously to approve the spending of up to £2.6m on the project which will add two lifts to the station and bring about other improvements – subject to being signed off by South Western Railway and Network Rail.

A final council decision on the BCP Council finance is expected to be made at the January full council meeting.

Portfolio holder Mike Greene said that irrespective of people’s concerns over helping out the rail company with council money the project would bring benefits to the area and local residents – helping with the regeneration of Pokesdown and Boscombe.

He said the suggestion of offering a loan, or persuading SWR to seek funding elsewhere was not an option, although it had been explored. He said the combined council funding with contributions from SWR and Network Rail would bring an improvement programme approaching £6m.

Cllr Green accused ward councillor George Farquhar of both calling for the project to go ahead at previous meetings, while now decrying the council’s wish to help with the funding.

“Instead of trying to play silly politics on this I would appreciate it if ward members got onboard and recognised this for the great scheme that it is,” he said.

Cllr Farquhar said there had been disquiet in the ward from community leaders after first receiving a Conservative leaflet taking credit for the project saying it had been approved – only to later discover that it had yet to be agreed by the rail companies and full council.

“The way it is being done is not to my liking” he said, “essentially we are giving £2.6m to SWR because they are not being forced to honour their obligation when they were awarded the franchise.”

Cllr Bev Dunlop said she found the opposition from what she described as a group of fit men as “unbelievable”.

She said that having lived near the station and used it for years it was not a welcoming or safe place for anyone with mobility problems.

“What we are doing here is nothing short of magnificent… it will make the station safe and welcoming and most likely increase its use,” she said.