Mayor's city plans under fire
Some Labour city councillors have criticised Sir Peter Soulsby after his recent announcement of big money projects.
In recent weeks, the city mayor has announced the purchase of two disused historic buildings for a total of £1.4 million as well as a £1.1 million scheme to revamp Victoria Park and a £7 million project to transform Leicester Market.
While the schemes have been welcomed by many residents and organisations in the city, the level of spending has caused some unease among council's Labour back bench councillors who are being consulted on a budget for next year that is likely to involve major cuts to services.
Labour councillor Anne Glover, who represents Braunstone Park and Rowley Fields, said: "I have been staggered about some of the things the mayor has announced recently.
"Money is being found for massive projects when we are going to be making staff redundant and cutting back services.
"Backbench councillors like me are often the last to know that we've bought another building when we get an e-mail after the event.
"In my view, the mayor and a small band of merry men are making all the big decisions and the councillors find out about it afterwards.
"We are allowed to put our opinions forward but they are not listened to.
"The mayor has the support of just over half of the Labour group and they back him whatever."
Coun Glover highlighted the city council decision to buy the former Leicester Grammar School building as a potential Richard III visitor centre and the acquisition of the fire damaged Donisthorpe Factory in Bath Lane.
She said: "We are trying to sell buildings we have like the old post office (in Bishop Street), while buying others for lots of money. It's all in the city centre, too. I don't see much investment in New Parks, Beaumont Leys or Braunstone. The mayor is going down his own path and not the Labour path."
Another Labour councillor, who asked not to be named, said: "I heard it suggested we have bought so many buildings it's like a game of Monopoly.
"I would probably support the decision to buy a building for a RIchard III centre, but the first many councillors knew about it was when they got an e-mail on the day a press release on the purchase was put out.
"Anne is not the only one who feels the mayor does his own thing on whims.
"He should listen to the group, because they are representative of the people of the city."
Sir Peter said his critics were failing to recognise the difference between the council's capital spending budget – for major projects – and its revenue cash – for day-to-day services.
He said: "Capital spending is for one-off projects for a year and has a ring fence around it. There is a small amount of flexibility but these rules are not made up in Leicester.
"Labour councillors signed off a capital budget last year and that is being spent. Of course, there is some flexibility.
"Most people involved in local government understand this."
He said that in the case of the purchase of the grammar school ,councillors were informed on the day contracts were exchanged.
He also defended his purchases and projects which he said would help with the long-term regeneration of the city.