CASH-STRAPPED Wigan Council is to spend almost £2m replacing terracotta tiles at the town hall, prompting harsh criticism from opposition members.
The Edwardian building is in the middle of a £6m refurbishment but surveyors have found the external tiles are in need of urgent repair.
And the bill comes to an eye-watering £1.8m.
Opposition leader Coun James Grundy said residents would view the move with “bafflement” as the local authority is struggling to find funds for public services.
But council bosses have said the money is coming from a different budget from the refurbishment works - which will save residents £1m a year when completed.
Paul McKevitt, the council’s deputy chief executive, told the Evening Post he is hopeful the work will not cost as much as the initial quote.
He said: “The council is currently in the process of reducing its administrative buildings from 24 to four which will save council tax-payers every year.
“While the figure quoted for the work is a significant amount, this is based on an initial survey and through recycling some of the current terracotta we expect the costs to be lower.
“Costs will also be saved by retaining the scaffolding in place, rather than having to remove it and then put it all back up again. The repairs are essential to maintain to a safe standard one of Wigan’s most important and prominent buildings.”
The repairs will be carried out by the same team of developers, ISG, that is currently working on the town hall.
By the end of the nation’s austerity period, Wigan Council will have been forced into making cuts of more than £100m with £18m of savings required for the next financial year.
But the amount the local authority has in reserve has been a constant point of argument between ruling and opposition councillors, who argue the figure is around £100m, which is vehemently denied by council bosses.
Coun Grundy, who is a Conservative member for Lowton East, added: “We are in the middle of a major £6m refurbishment of the town hall and now this. People will see this decision and react with bafflement. I understand the need for maintenance work, which is important, but do we have to spend so much and so quickly?”
Wigan Independent Network member Coun Jim Ellis said: “They’re pleading poverty with everything else but forking out for this. The question is, where does it stop?”
The council has argued the improvements to the town hall will save taxpayers £1m a year by cutting down on costs from other council buildings.
Mr Kevitt added: “In its previous state the town hall was unfit for purpose and was riddled with structural issues with some areas of the building cordoned off for health and safety reasons.
“The council opted to invest in a complete update to the building that will ultimately save taxpayers money.
“Thanks to our investment the town hall is near to being completely transformed into modern energy efficient offices and will be the workplace of 600 employees which will help boost the town centre economy.
“Once completed the town hall will allow us to serve our residents better while saving money.”