A row has broken out over a £20m Birmingham City Council loan that is the key element in the showpiece refurbishment of Warwickshire County Cricket Club’s Edgbaston ground.
The club admitted when it announced the plans - aimed at making sure Test matches continue to be played in Birmingham - that it would have to borrow money.
But officials did not spell out then that they were discussing with the council the possibility of a loan to pay for two-thirds of the £30 million cost of transforming the world-famous cricketing arena.
The prospect of a bail-out has angered Edgbaston Conservative city councillor James Hutchings, who wants to know how long it would take the cricket club to repay the loan and the rate of interest to be charged.
A meeting of the Edgbaston Ward Committee questioned whether a large loan should be handed to a profit-making commercial organisation.
Members pointed out that the council is facing a severe strain on its own resources and struggling to identify funding for major projects including the 50-metre Olympic swimming pool and the new city library.
Councillors are concerned that the cricket club, which has struggled to break even over the past two years, might not be able to afford the repayments. The ward committee urged the club to consider a cheaper plan, replacing the pavilion and media centre but saving money by not building a new stand.
A planning application proposes increasing the capacity of Edgbaston by 4,000 with enhanced corporate hospitality and events space.
The second phase of a development programme involves building offices, 250 flats and a hotel.
The club insists that expansion and improvements are vital if Warwickshire is to meet cricket authorities’ new expectations for test match grounds.
But Coun Hutchings, who chairs the council finance scrutiny committee, said he had seen no evidence to show that a £30 million scheme was necessary.
He added: “Some important questions need to be asked. The council helps many organisations but is it right to give financial support by means of a loan considering our other priorities?
“During the past couple of seasons the cricket club has barely broken even. If they are only just breaking even how can they afford to pay £1 million annual interest charges and at some stage repay the loan?
“It wouldn’t be very friendly for the council to lend them the money if that drives the club into financial failure.
“There is a big question mark in my mind as to whether the cricket club will be able ever to repay the loan and whether the council has more urgent things to fund.”
Coun Hutchings added: “The cricket club are very keen to retain test match status and I absolutely support them in that.
“But I am not convinced that they need to knock down and rebuild the stands.”
A council spokesman said “Warwickshire County Cricket Club has asked us for a loan but at this stage nothing has been confirmed and discussions are ongoing.”
A final decision on the loan will be taken by the council cabinet.
The cricket club was unavailable for comment.