An unused giant television screen has cost taxpayers £1 million following a series of blunders by Birmingham City Council.
The BBC Big Screen in Victoria Square should have begun operating in December 2007, in time for the Christmas German market.
But plans to show concerts and sports events were abandoned after workers in nearby offices complained about the noise from test broadcasts and obtained a High Court injunction preventing the screen from being switched on.
A judicial review sought by the owners of Waterloo House offices heard criticism of the way the council gave itself planning permission for the screen in a sensitive conservation area without properly consulting nearby businesses.
After a protracted dispute involving highly-paid barristers, local authority officials climbed down and agreed to:
• Provide an adequate design and access statement.
• Draw up a noise impact assessment.
• Report on the conservation and heritage impact of siting the screen close to the Grade 1-listed Town Hall.
The noise impact assessment recommended an acoustic barrier to mask the sound from broadcasts.
A cabinet report details how the fiasco led to soaring costs.
The budget to move the screen from its original home in Chamberlain Square to a specially-built plinth in Victoria Square was £371,000.
Relocation fees soared to £614,000 following the judicial review, and when purchasing costs of the hi-tech equipment, imported from America, are added on along with legal fees, the total bill is just over £1 million.
The cost to the council of defending the judicial review was £55,000.
Hiring smaller temporary screens to show the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games cost £32,000.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance, which campaigns against the misuse of money by public bodies, branded the £1 million bill “obscene”.
West Midlands spokeswoman Fiona McEvoy said: “If the council hadn’t been so arrogant to begin with and hadn’t railroaded through planning permission, then this waste of money could have been avoided.
“All too often Birmingham City Council seem to get obsessed with prestige projects regardless of local concerns the cost to taxpayers.”
The figures were released almost four months after the Birmingham Post submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the council.
Cabinet members are being asked to agree to dip into cash reserves to meet the funding shortfall.
A fresh application for an acoustic barrier will be considered by the Planning Committee later this month, and the owners of Waterloo House have agreed to drop their objections.
It’s thought the screen will finally be switched on next month – 14 months late.
Ian Ward, deputy leader of the opposition Labour group, accused council leaders of “supreme arrogance”.
Coun Ward (Lab Shard End) added: “It is incredible that they have been prepared to spend £1 million on something that has never been used.
“There has been a complete lack of planning over this and a failure to consult the people who would be affected by the screen.”