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Wolverhampton Tory councillors storm out of meeting over Civic Halls row

By Liam Keen | Wolverhampton | Politics | Published:

Conservative councillors stormed out of a meeting over a row demanding an independent inquiry into the revamp of Wolverhampton Civic Halls.

Wolverhampton Council

Opposition leader Wendy Thompson marched her councillors out of the chamber at a full council meeting on Wednesday after what she called an "anti-democratic" decision to cut short a colleague's final speech.

Councillor Jonathan Yardley had filed a motion at the meeting calling for an independent review into the Civic Halls plans after the main contractor, Shaylor Group, collapsed.

In the debate that followed, Councillor Thompson described the situation as a "fiasco", claiming the council had been irresponsible with public money.

'Get your act together'

She said: "This undoubtedly is a fiasco and this is the fourth time we've had a major project in Wolverhampton that has had very significant problems.

"We are not dealing with smarties, we are dealing with £38 million of public money.

"Did we have people who looked at the last three years of the Shaylor accounts? I have not heard of one financial firm that has been involved in looking into the financial aspects of Shaylor.

"How could you possibly do this with residents' money?

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"Your history of dealing with major projects is failure.

"If you think this is success, we can tell you that many residents in Wolverhampton do not, you have not done due diligence.

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"This is utterly appalling and the residents of Wolverhampton have very serious concerns over the future of the city centre and this major entertainment venue.

"Now kindly get your act together, don't insult us or the residents of Wolverhampton."

'Jobs have been lost'

Council leader Ian Brookfield hit back, calling the demand "disgraceful" while admitting that the council had been misled by the Shaylor Group.

He said: "We're not going to spend £50,000 or £60,000 on an independent inquiry just to satisfy a group of people who can't be bothered to come into meetings, talk about a waste of public money, how disgraceful.

"Let's not forget people have lost their jobs, Wolverhampton people too, and how many times did you mention that in your speech? Not once.

"We did exactly what was recommended by the government and the laws of this land.

"We've all been misled.

"We know we aren't dealing with smarties, we will deliver this on budget and within the specified timescale."

Point of order

The Labour cabinet member for city economy, Harman Banger, and Conservative Udey Singh also waded in on the debate before chaos erupted in the council chamber.

As Councillor Yardley was giving his summary speech at the end of the debate, Councillor Brookfield interrupted him to pose a point of order, accusing the opposition of bringing new information into his speech that the Labour-run council would not be able to respond to.

Mayor Claire Darke sided with Councillor Brookfield and asked that Councillor Yardley sit down so that the vote could be taken.

This provoked an angry reaction from the Tories who stormed out of the chamber as the motion was voted down.

As she was standing up from her seat, Councillor Thompson said: "This is anti-democratic and extremely dangerous, we totally object.

"Madam mayor, we have no confidence in your chairing of the meeting."

Of the 10 Tory councillors, only Jane Stevenson and Paul Appleby stayed for the remainder of the meeting.

Liam Keen

By Liam Keen
Reporter - @LiamKeen_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, primarily covering Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch on 01902 319688.

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