Giant Walsall flower pots branded 'absurd' as MP and council chiefs clash over spending priorities

A row has broken out after a Labour MP urged council chiefs to rethink their spending priorities and stop "wasting" taxpayers' money.

Giant green plant pots were installed in Walsall town centre this year
Giant green plant pots were installed in Walsall town centre this year

Valerie Vaz called on Conservative-run Walsall Council to splash the cash on guard rails and bollards outside Bentley West Primary School, and to provide funding for improvements to an access road at Wrexham Avenue allotments.

The Walsall South MP has written to the council's chief executive expressing "serious concerns" over spending priorities, accusing the authority of wasting £20,000 of taxpayers' cash on "enormous green flowerpots" in the town centre while facing a £36 million budget deficit.

She called on the authority to stop "failing" her constituents by using cash from the recently allocated £21.3m Town Deal to pay for both schemes.

Council chiefs have hit back, insisting the failings of previous Labour council administrations had left the borough under serious financial pressure.

Ms Vaz said it was wrong that the council had found the money for the "absurd" flower pots project "while cutting back on basic road safety measures outside local schools protecting children".

Labour MP Valerie Vaz

She said resurfacing the access road to the allotments on Wrexham Avenue would represent a "far more appropriate use of taxpayers’ money".

Ms Vaz added: "Walsall Council have recently been allocated funding from a £21.3 million Town Deal to improve transport, provide social and cultural infrastructure and boost skills.

"While this does not even cover the most recent round of budget cuts announced in October 2020, I am sure some of this funding can be used to deal with these school traffic and access road issues.”

Council leader Mike Bird said Labour had left Walsall with a "big debt and a loss making facility" when it bought the lease of the Saddlers Centre.

He added: "The money from the flower pots did not come from council tax it came from outside funding.

"The flower pots were there for a purpose and that was to open up a conversation about what people wanted to do with their town centre.

"To be honest I'm surprised Valerie Vaz even knows where the town centre is as she is very rarely seen there. All she seems to do is criticise and she never says anything positive.

"She should spend more time talking up the good things in Walsall rather than criticising the Conservative administration."

Walsall Council's deputy leader, Adrian Andrew, said Ms Vaz had not taken up an invitation to sit on the Town Deal board, which had decided where to allocate funding.

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