PAST and present Camborne town councillors have clashed over plans to spend about £250,000 on a new handyman workshop – in Redruth.
The town council is expected to decide tomorrow night if it will buy a 3,500sq ft storage unit at Barncoose Industrial Estate.
But the proposal will be considered behind closed doors because of commercial sensitivities, the council said.
Some former councillors believe the matter should be debated in an open and transparent manner.
Former Cornwall and Camborne councillor Dave Biggs said: “A town council is entitled to buy property and equipment and the exact details may be commercially sensitive, but the principle of spending the equivalent of a year’s budget buying property in another town should be the subject of public scrutiny.
“To put it into context this is the equivalent of Cornwall Council spending £1.2 billion buying property in Devon and not telling anyone.
“The principle of open and accountable local government means major decisions should be subject to scrutiny by the taxpayers of Camborne.
“No one got elected to Camborne Town Council on the manifesto commitment to spend £250,000 of public money in Redruth.”
Former Camborne mayor Jean Charman added: “If this is an open and transparent council, why is the decision to spend £250,000 of Camborne taxpayers’ money being held behind closed doors?”
Current councillor Jude Robinson was disappointed that much of the information has been kept from the public and said the council should not be afraid to make the case for this to taxpayers.
She said she would be asking for information to be put in the public domain tomorrow.
Camborne mayor Mike Champion said there simply was not anything suitable available in Camborne and the purchase would give the authority an asset at the end of the loan term.
He added: “At the moment we have got something that is not fit for purpose as it is not big enough.
“If we rented a property it is going to cost us about £12,000 a year. If we purchased a property over a 25-year period it would cost us about the same, the difference being that after the loan period the council would have an asset that could be used to benefit the town.
“We have to be financially responsible and, in my opinion, renting is not.
“We have to do something because, as an employer, we have to be responsible for the welfare of our staff.
“I do not think councillors who have criticised us are looking at this in the broadest of terms and they can’t see the long term benefits this will give us.”
Camborne town clerk Amanda Mugford said the authority was open in its decision-making processes, but sometimes sensitive information had to be discussed in private. She added: “The information is commercially sensitive. We would not want council taxpayers disadvantaged into having to pay more for premises because financial information had been divulged in public.
“Councillors, past and present, should realise the potential harm that could be caused by discussing such issues in the public domain.”