PLANS to increase spending on communications managers at Winchester City Council by £213,000 have been slammed as a ‘backroom decision’ without any public scrutiny.

The decision was included in a draft Portfolio Holder Decision Notice, which lays out how to spend the Conservative-lead council’s £950,000 underspend in the last financial year. Normally, only councillors see the draft proposals before they are finally approved.

Lucille Thompson, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “At a time when there’s so much that needs doing on planning enforcement, on our heritage and archaeology, and on recycling, why are the Conservatives planning to spend such a huge amount of extra money on spin doctors?

Winchester city councillor Lucille Thompson Winchester city councillor Lucille Thompson

“The Conservatives weren’t willing to come forward with their proposals for last year’s underspend during the last council meeting – and now we know why.

“I’m appalled that they’re trying to take this decision behind closed doors. Not only is it a waste of public money, but the public have also not been given a chance to have their say.”

The £213,000 is part of the £997,000 being set aside to help the council deal with the three major ongoing projects: Silver Hill 2, officially known as the Central Winchester Regeneration project, Station Approach and the new sports centre at Bar End, officially known as the Winchester Sport and Leisure Park.

Other proposals for spending the surplus money are £250,000 towards ideas from the yet-to-be-published Winchester Movement Strategy and £100,000 on environmental enhancements.