THE blocking of BCP Council’s plan to sell off thousands of beach huts by a government minister has been labelled “hugely embarrassing” by the former leader of the local authority.

Liberal Democrat councillor Vikki Slade said the current situation was a real worry for residents after levelling-up secretary Greg Clark MP stepped in to block the council’s Conservative leadership special purpose vehicle proposal to fund transformation.

The collapse of the plan leaves a funding gap of around £50million in the council’s transformation programme.

Cllr Drew Mellor, BCP Council leader, has said discussions are ongoing over borrowing the money required from government through a capitalisation direction.

Cllr Slade, who refreshed calls for an emergency budget, told the Daily Echo: “It is exactly what we predicated was going to happen.

“I know people with beach huts will be reassured but I don’t think it is the good news that the leader is spinning it as.

“It still means the future generation are going to be paying for the recklessness of this Conservative administration.”

She added: “It is hugely embarrassing that national news was made because BCP Council wanted to do something the government had advised against.

“We have been calling for an alternative budget since February. Councillor Mike Cox stated we needed a plan B budget. I have called for it in full council and I tried to propose a motion at overview and scrutiny last month.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Vikki SladeCllr Vikki Slade (Image: BCP Council)

“We do need to know if this loan is a good deal or not. If there is a shorter repayment term than you would normal expect it is going to cause problems for the next council administration after elections in May.

“It is all a real worry for the people of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. I just think it is appalling.”

Labour group leader Cllr George Farquhar said he feared that the council now faced difficult times in plugging the budget and the council’s chief financial office could have to issue a 114 notice which would restrict spending to only essential services.

He said in the budget report back in February said the SPV plan “underpins the budget”.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr George FarquharCllr George Farquhar

“I have heard the 151 officer (head of council finance) is confident we can limp along for now,” Cllr Farquhar said. “The 10th largest authority in the country limping along.

“The only thing we can rely on at this point is the government is of the same colour party as the leadership and it will take pity on the council.”

Independent councillor Stephen Bartlett said he was happy but not surprised that the beach hut sell off had been scrapped.

He said he would be against borrowing money to fund transformation, a move which would require full council approval and one he would no support.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Stephen BartlettCllr Stephen Bartlett (Image: BCP Council)

“My preference would be review to take place over unnecessary spending to be halted and a delay or suspension of projects which are using a lot of money at this point. We need to make sure the key council services are sorted and transformation funding is allocated,” Cllr Bartlett said.

“At that point we can start looking at these more exotic type schemes and project then.”

Poole Local Group leader Cllr Mohan Iyengar said the scrapping of the plan was good news for beach hut owners but he added that the Conservative administration needed to give clear assurances that the pricing and maintenance relating to the huts would stay under council control.

“We need to know what the financial plan is going forward,” Cllr Iyengar said. “I know at the last scrutiny committee meeting there was a request for a redone budget, however it is done, we just need to know what the plan is.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Mohan IyengarCllr Mohan Iyengar (Image: BCP Council)

“Has a capitalisation direction been approved, how does it work, how does it affect this year’s finances and how does it affect finances in future years?”