THE leader of the council was last night accused of needlessly spending hundreds of thousands of pounds as the authority prepares to lose millions in funding.

Tory opposition group leader Matt Davis presented the head of the Labour-led council, Chris Robbins, with a giant bill for £534,000 at the full borough council meeting last night (Thursday).

The invoice, which is headed “Re: waste of precious taxpayers' money,” includes the £350,000 given to former chief executive Andrew Kilburn on his departure earlier this year, which the council said was by mutual consent, although the Tories claim he was ousted by Cllr Robbins.

The bill also includes £50,000 for membership of the Thames Gateway Partnership development agency, £100,000 spent suing the Government over the loss of the Building Schools for the Future programme and £34,000 for junior portfolio holders.

Cllr Robbins did not respond to the invoice when it was handed to him during the meeting, but attacked the coalition Government's decision to withdraw Building Schools for the future funding, adding: “Waltham Forest is still reeling from the schools capital budget and what a tragedy that was.”

Labour's cabinet member for housing, Marie Pye, said Government housing benefit caps would lead to poorer people in neighbouring Tory-ruled boroughs flocking to cheaper housing in Waltham Forest, putting a strain on education and other services.

“We will welcome those people into our communities because we understand how difficult it is for them, but it's going to cost us a lot of money that we just don't have,” she added.

Although Cllr Robins said he did not want to see “ya boo politics” in the council chamber, much of the debate over the £65 million council cuts to be made by 2015, including the £25 million to be saved in 2011 and 2012, descended into political mud-slinging.

The Tories accused Cllr Robins of creating a “false sense of hysteria” over the cuts in a motion congratulating the coalition Government for tackling the deficit, which was thrown out.

Labour councillors heckled Lib Dem Bob Sullivan for passing his allotted speaking time while speaking about the cuts.

Cllr Davis goaded his counterpart by dubbing the savings "Chris' cuts," while Cllr Robins called his protests "Matt's mess."

Harmony was only restored to the chamber when members supported a motion supporting charity work for the victims of the Pakistan floods and approved the appointment of the new chief executive, Martin Esom, who will start on a salary of £180,000.

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