A SENIOR Leeds councillor has hit back at claims the local authority was obstructive over the enforced free transfer of a former primary school building worth almost £1m to a free school group.
Leeds City Council handed over the former Fir Tree Primary School site in Alwoodley to the government last October.
The Department of Education then transferred the site to the Khalsa Schools Trust.
Coun Alan Lamb (Conservative/Wetherby) has called on Leeds City Council’s scrutiny board resources and council services committee to launch an inquiry to find out why the process to transfer the former school site to the trust took almost two years.
Coun Lamb, shadow executive board member for children’s services, said: “Why has the ruling administration of the council tried to prevent this at almost every turn?
“Right to the last they were fighting tooth and nail to prevent this from going ahead, even going so far as to threaten a Judicial Review. I am forced to conclude that because they do not support free schools they have deliberately sought to block this process – politics over providing vital school places.”
Coun Richard Lewis, (Labour/Pudsey), Leeds City Council’s executive member for transport and economy with responsibility for asset management, said: “I welcome scrutiny looking into this issue as it needs to be dealt with out in the open. It is absolutely scandalous the way the government has walked in and helped themselves to a site we had identified as being needed for a much more urgent purpose.
“As a local authority we have a duty to ensure that we do everything we can to protect Leeds council tax payers’ assets, what has happened here is nothing short of asset stripping by the coalition government down in Whitehall.” Coun Lewis added: “Coun Lamb may believe that we have been obstructive but I would argue that we have been trying to ascertain the facts instead of just handing over a Leeds tax payers’ asset worth around £900,000.”