Perth and Kinross Council received more flak from politicians and a business owner after it was revealed they will spend around £100,000 on external lighting at its refurbished headquarters.
Murdo Fraser, who is standing for the Perthshire North parliamentary seat at Holyrood, accused the local authority’s SNP administration of “feathering their own nests,” after Councillor Ian Campbell told The Courier the ‘heritage lighting,’ which is understood to be modelled on old-fashioned street lighting, was not previously announced “for obvious reasons.”
The council is already under fire for disclosing they are spending an estimated £850,000 on refurbishing its chambers at 2 High Street, Perth, which controversially includes around £150,000 on new chairs and tables for councillors.
Mr Campbell claims the council are now “running around” to find money to pay for the external lighting project as they have made cuts to other services.
“I understand the lights will be ‘oldie worldly,’” he said.
“Plans to build the lights were lodged around three months ago and the matter was quietly passed by council officers.
“This was obviously forgotten about when the original tenders were awarded and probably not budgeted for. The council will now be trying to get the money from some other budget – I suspect the regeneration budget.
“I suspect the administration is not too keen to speak about this after the chairs fiasco.”
And Mr Fraser was equally scathing.
He commented: “When it comes to spending taxpayers money on feathering their own nests there is no equal to the SNP group on Perth and Kinross Council. At a time when savings are being made across all budgets the SNP have thought it wise to spend a cool £100,000 on lights at the council HQ despite already splashing out £150,000 on new chairs and tables.
“ln February, the SNP group hit pensioners in the pocket by lowering the income threshold for receiving personal care, yet here we are three months later and the council appears to be awash with cash when it comes to smartening up their High Street HQ.”
And Kairen Ruse, owner of Blues & Brown ladies’ clothes shop in South Street, Perth, who previously labelled the council chambers revamp “a vanity” project for council leaders, said the disclosure on the spending on external street lighting at the building was “beyond the joke.”
“This is a classic case of Nero fiddled while Rome burnt,” she said.
“Where is this money coming from to pay for this, and why spend money on themselves when we can’t attract people to Perth? Who do the council think they are?”
She continued: “Pensioners have been hit in their pocket but on the other hand we will have councillors sitting in their ivory towers. It’s beyond the joke.”
A council spokesperson denied the HQ refurbishment was a “vanity project” and explained the reasoning behind installing new street lighting at the building.
“External lighting at the bottom of the High Street is being provided as a pilot project in respect of proposed investment in lighting initiatives across the city, as identified, in the Perth City Plan,” she said.
“This is a project designed to improve the external public facing lighting provision. The overall aim of the wider lighting strategy is to reinforce the attractiveness and ambience within the city, improving the balance between lighting and darkness.
“The new external lighting will create a gateway leading from the High Street to Tay Street where people will be able to move at night and feel that they are in a safe, well-lit environment.
“The council agreed to provide £100,000 of funding to support the lighting strategy.”