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WARRINGTON Borough Council’s decision to buy Birchwood Park will have to come before the executive board once again after it was offered advice by the scrutiny committee.

On July 24 the executive board voted for the authority to buy the site in a deal worth in the region of £210 million.

But Labour councillors Andrew Hill, Graham Friend and Diana Bennett called the decision in and it came before the scrutiny committee at the Town Hall on Monday.

Cllr Hill (LAB – Rixton and Woolston), who was the lead signatory on the ‘call-in’, suggested that the decision was not taken in accordance with the decision-making principles in the council’s constitution.

The reason for the call-in also included the ‘lack of consultation and openness’.

The committee decided to offer advice to the executive board.

Principles underpinning proposed property investments should be subject to all council members being briefed and having the opportunity to debate the matter.

Cllr Hill welcomed the decision.

He said: “I am pleased that the committee accepted my arguments and voted to send advice based on them to the executive board.

“This deal represents a huge spending commitment and rightly warranted further scrutiny.

“I hope that the executive board will think carefully about the scrutiny committee’s recommendations.”

Cllr Russ Bowden Said executive members will take the advice on board when they vote on the deal again at a meeting next Thursday.

He added: “The substantive points of the call-in were addressed in full in my response at the meeting.

“The advice from the scrutiny committee is only general in relation to property investment and ethics – it is not based on the points of the call-in, all of which were dismissed in the meeting.

“It is disappointing that the councillors involved in the call-in were not present at any of the briefing meetings or at the executive board when the decision was made.

“None of them made any contact with me to raise any questions prior to the call-in.

“If they had accessed the information provided, then they would have found the answers to the points that were raised.

“I now look forward to the executive board taking the advice on board and proceeding with the purchase, the merits of which were not opposed by the scrutiny committee in their advice.”

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