Leeds Arena: MPs and council in furious row

A furious political row erupted today over the future of the Leeds Arena as tensions between Leeds Council and the city's Labour MPs exploded into the open.

Councillor Andrew Carter, the Tory joint leader of the council, described the city's Labour MPs as a "complete shower" and said they and their government have "abysmally let down" the city.

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Labour North East MP Fabian Hamilton accused Coun Carter of "mud-slinging and said his "mixed messages" are threatening the future of the project.

Sources say the relationship between civic hall and Leeds MPs has hit an all time low.

The row was sparked after a minister made clear that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will still make the final decision on a scaled-back bid for 9.9m of public money to fund the venue.

An earlier bid of 18m from Yorkshire Forward (YF) had been snubbed but it was hoped that any proposal for less than 10m could be approved locally by YF and not need Whitehall involvement.

However, Labour MPs say that business minister Pat McFadden is alarmed at Coun Carter's claims that the council can fund the project without government support and needs to be convinced that the joint council leader is only "bragging".

This provoked a furious response from Coun Carter, who said: "We have been abysmally let down by the government and by the members of Parliament. The MPs, to be frank, are a complete shower.

"They are playing politics, trying to get themselves off the hook both individually and collectively. It's pretty pathetic."

He repeated his pledge that the project will go ahead irrespective of government support.

He said: "It will make life difficult, it means we have to take some pretty difficult decisions about funding but we are not going to have another Supertram from this government.

"It would be difficult but we can do it."

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland demanded that Mr McFadden "butt out" of the row. He yesterday sent a letter to the minister demanding to know why funding approval is still his decision.

He said: "The fact is the revised bid is a decision for Yorkshire Forward and the government should now butt out and let the decision be made locally."

Coun Carter said the council would use "small amounts of borrowing" and cut the costs of the scheme to plug any black hole created by a refusal to provide a public subsidy.

He also said that the "payback period" for the project would be longer and that the council would not receive as much profit from the venue as was originally projected during its first few years.

However, Mr Hamilton said: "There is a problem for the government – either the council needs the money for the project or it doesn't. Which is it?"

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