BCP Council has made a initial bid of £17m for the Barclays House site, the Echo understands.

The figure is almost three times that of the next higher bidder, believed to be Poole-based developer Fortitudo, who were prepared to pay around £6.5m.

The Echo reported last week that the council has been given ten weeks by Barclays' agents Jones, Lang, LaSalle, to carry out due diligence and see if the business case stacks up.

The council's late bid in the process came as a huge surprise to many - including most councillors.

Read more: Councillors react to “authoritarian” BCP leadership after Barclays House bid

It is thought BCP may want to turn part of the building into its new headquarters, replacing the town hall in Bournemouth - with additional space being used by other businesses and organisations.

Opposition councillors had no idea the deal was being negotiated and read it in first in this newspaper.

Bournemouth Echo: Barclays House in PooleBarclays House in Poole

And one senior councillor who has not been officially told the figure yet was advised by a town hall source: "Make sure you are sitting down when you do find out how much it is."

Opposition leader Cllr Vikki Slade said: "This Conservative administration are like magpies. They see something shiny and they want it. Then they get bored and move on to something else."

She added the plan would require 'shed loads' of additional borrowing -the council only has £8m of headroom.

Read more: BCP Council is looking to buy Barclays House in Poole

"This scheme is pointless. The Conservatives are going to bankrupt BCP Council."

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat Cllr Mike Cox has written to the council's chief financial officer, Adam Richens asking for clarification.

"I am not aware this was ever on any forward plan," he said. "Surely any purchase needs to be sanctioned by council?"

Bournemouth Echo: BCP leadership has been described as "chaotic"BCP leadership has been described as "chaotic"

He has asked if it is a council purchase or by the BCP's own regeneration company, FuturePlaces.

"Either way this would need to be funded by borrowing and wouldn’t this breach the borrowing limits set by the council?"

His Liberal Democrat colleague, Cllr Marcus Andrews questioned why BCP Council was getting into 'speculative property development', and where the money was coming from.

He said: "There is no spare money around, so you have to ask that fundamental question.

"The report on the beach hut sale has been pulled from the next cabinet and will now not get to full council until September and their sale is fundamental for the 22/23 budget.

"We will be halfway through the year by then."

Fortitudo, owned by Richard Carr, was approached for a comment but declined to talk about the issue.

Bournemouth Echo: Graham Farrant, chief executive of BCP CouncilGraham Farrant, chief executive of BCP Council

However Mr Carr is known to want to demolish the building and build three apartment towers on the site.

He was quoted last week as saying he was 'disappointed' at the turn of events.

In the Echo story, council leader Drew Mellor said: "We are absolutely committed to the rejuvenation of Poole with a number of exciting opportunities coming through the council soon and this presents a further interesting dynamic in that rejuvenation."

A third bid, below Fortitudo's £6.5m, was also submitted in the process and was from a development company.

BCP Chief Executive Graham Farrant said no acquisition money had yet been spent and any decision on this scale would have to go full council.

He told the Echo: "There is huge regeneration potential in Poole and this is an absolutely iconic building that should be a big opportunity, so the question is, what's the council's role in that and can we bring something forward that is exciting and threads into the Big Plan.

"We have to make sure we get the right solutions."

He said the council's bid, of which many elected members were unaware, was to a timescale driven by the building's owner" after the idea had been discussed by BCP's asset investments panel last month.

Mr Farrant said taking on the building did not necessarily mean additional borrowing.

"There are some things in the capital programme that might not happen, so you could potentially do this if another scheme falls out. There are bound to be schemes that are not yet committed."

And making Barclays House the HQ of BCP Council was an option, but no detailed work had been done on that, he added.