A FURIOUS war of words has broken out after the leader of Malvern Hills District Council falsely blamed the town’s civic society for the authority ‘wasting’ £250,000 on repairing a building it wanted to demolish.
Council chiefs unanimously approved plans to repair the Priory Lodge off Avenue Road at last Tuesday’s executive committee meeting.
The move came despite the council’s desire to demolish the historic venue and replace it with a £950,000 community centre which hit the buffers last year when Historic England listed the site.
Speaking during the meeting, Coun David Chambers said: “We have the civic society to thank enormously for putting us in this position of wasting tax payers’ money following their contact with Historic England.”
However, the red-faced council chief was forced to back track on his comments following the meeting after irate Civic Society bosses revealed they didn’t ask Historic England to make Priory Lodge a Grade II-listed building.
“I’m delighted to hear Malvern Civic Society say they did not ask Historic England to list the chamber,” he said.
“Regardless of how it happened though, the fact remains a significant amount of taxpayers’ money is being spent on maintaining a building which is not fit for purpose at a time when we need to make £1.45million of savings as our Government funding reduces.
“Nonetheless, we accept where we are now and as a responsible organisation will invest in its maintenance.”
Furious Civic Society chairman Clive Hooper has written to Coun Chambers to demand an apology for his ‘outrageous’ remarks.
“Delighted he may have been but I do feel it does not exonerate Coun Chambers from making a formal public statement, fully retracting the remarks and apologising without reservation for besmirching the good name of Malvern Civic Society,” he said.
“I consider his remarks to have been outrageous in seeking to blame the civic society for costing taxpayers this expenditure when the truth is the expenditure has been incurred directly as a result of the council’s actions.
“In my time as chairman of the society I have always sought to foster good working relationships with the district council’s members and officers and I do hope they have valued the contributions we have made to their work.
“I earnestly hope those relationships can continue to be developed and there can be fruitful collaboration in the future so a line can be drawn under this sad and regrettable episode.”