Birmingham’s neighbourhood council offices have been forced to buy £300,000 worth of computer equipment they did not order, do not need and have no means of paying for.
Politicians running the city’s 10 constituency committees are furious after being told by Council House bosses they must have the new computers, costing £30,000 each, whether they want them or not – and settle the bill from their budgets.
Edgbaston committee chairman Deirdre Alden said she tried to return the computers, but was told by officials the constituency would still have to pay even if it refused to take delivery.
Coun Alden (Con Edgbaston) added: “We don’t want these computers, we don’t need them, we didn’t order them and we can’t afford them.”
The timing of the delivery, towards the end of the financial year, left the constituencies struggling to avoid overspending budgets.
Ladywood constituency committee chairman Carl Rice said the row raised fundamental questions about the council’s commitment to devolution.
The 10 constituencies are responsible for running local services, and given budgets by the city council to do so.
But Coun Rice (Lab Ladywood) said interference from the Council House “made a mockery” of local decision-making. He added: “To be told at a time when we are supposed to be exercising fiscal discipline you have to have these computers is ridiculous. It makes it very difficult to balance budgets. This is not a Labour versus Conservative thing, it is a constituency versus the centre battle.’’