OLDHAM Conservatives have hit out at the council for failing to mention the £35m awarded by the government for Covid recovery projects and not setting up a “true cross-party committee” to scrutinise them.

Oldham Council was awarded more than £10.7m from the Future High Streets Fund to aid Covid recovery and a further £24.4m from the Towns Fund to deliver four projects.

The projects include the urban farm Northern Roots, the relocation of Tommyfield Market and the increase in office space at Spindles Shopping Centre.

In a motion brought to the council by the Conservatives on Thursday, concerns were raised that the projects could “end up going way over budget” and “saddle taxpayers with more debt and higher council tax bills to pay for it” if a “true cross-party committee” was not set up.

In a later statement the Conservatives accused Labour, which runs the local authority, of “hiding away from scrutiny”.

Cllr Beth Sharp, who represents St. James’ Ward, said: “Our plan was reasonable and achievable.

"I and my colleagues wanted to make sure that taxpayers' money was being spent correctly and that more importantly that this Labour administration listens to the people of this borough.

“I do not understand why they do not want everyone to be involved and more importantly why they are so opposed to a special committee stopping these projects from failing or going over budget.”

Cllr Sahr Abid, who seconded the motion and represents Medlock Vale, added: “The Northern Roots project is an urban farm, and with many people unaware of the how much money is at stake and what is involved it could end up going wrong very quickly.”

In response to the motion, Oldham Council highlighted the several public consultations that have taken place and pointed to the Town Deal Board which it says includes “a range of local stakeholders, including business people, representatives of the voluntary and community sector, and our major public institutions”, as well as the cross-party Policy Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

The council leader Arooj Shah said it was “hard to believe” the Conservatives were “making a fuss” after a decade of government cuts to the council’s annual budget.

She said: “The Conservative government have taken £230m from this borough’s finances.

"That’s £230m, every single year, that we don’t have for care for older people, youth activities for our children, or to keep the streets clean.

“It’s hard to believe the local Conservatives are making a fuss because we weren’t quick to praise the government for giving a tiny fraction of that back.

“Quite correctly, the government looked at our detailed plans and vision for the town centre and liked what they saw, which is how we secured the funding.

"Everything we’re doing is driven by Oldham people – it’s about creating well-paid jobs, family friendly activities, and a better future for Oldham.

“Every step of the way we’ll be using the project management processes approved by the government, regular consultation with residents and the transparent, cross-party scrutiny process that includes Conservative members and is in our constitution to make sure the projects are as effective and efficient as possible.”

Conservative Royton North Cllr Dave Arnott has also weighed in on the debate.

He said: “The original motion submitted by Cllr Sharp sought to acknowledge, at least, that the £35m funding was provided by the Conservative government.

"It was disappointing, that at the very earliest opportunity, this reference was removed in the amended motion.

"Unfortunately, this is a common practice by the Labour-led council and forms part of the narrative that all things good come from the council, and that all things bad are as a result of the Conservative government.

"The fact that the funding came from government is exactly that, a fact!

"The motion generally, called for more consultation and scrutiny of projects. Surely this could only be a good thing?

"Given that the cost to the taxpayer for failed, overrun, over budget or cancelled projects managed by this council in the last 10 years, runs into tens of millions of pounds, it would be seen as a sensible and prudent approach."