A FURIOUS party political row has broken out over the revelation that the Direct Labour Unit project at Brynsworthy has overshot its budget by as much as £750,000. Liberal Democrat members of North Devon Council issued a statement saying: This is a stagg

NEW site: The Brynsworthy Environment Centre is due to be finished in the spring.

A FURIOUS party political row has broken out over the revelation that the Direct Labour Unit project at Brynsworthy has overshot its budget by as much as £750,000.

Liberal Democrat members of North Devon Council issued a statement saying: "This is a staggering admission and smacks of, at best, incompetence and at worst maladministration leading to a cavalier dereliction of duty."

They are angry that the situation was revealed in a verbal statement at the end of last week's full council meeting.

Cllr David Butt said: "This is treating the council with contempt. Why do we not have a full written report? What are the true figures? Who has made these decisions and under what authority? How can the Tory leadership have allowed this to happen?

The newly named Brynsworthy Environment Centre - original projected cost £5 million - is due to be completed next spring.

It is being paid for from the sale to Tesco of the council's existing direct labour unit site at Seven Brethren, Barnstaple. It is estimated this will bring in £8.5 million.

Councillor Des Brailey, Tory Leader of North Devon Council, acknowledged that mistakes had been made.

"I am aware that the way some of the figures were presented in relation to an overspend on the DLU relocation caused both confusion and concern," he said in a message to councillors.

"I accept our presentation of the facts was lacking in clarity and I would like to apologise for that."

He has called for a detailed report setting out all aspects of the projected overspend.

Mr Brailey told the Gazette that some £400,000 of that related to extra roadworks ordered by Devon County Council. Other additional costs - such as a £10,000 dormouse survey - should have been included in the original costings, but were not.

Councillor Rodney Cann, the Lead Member for Waste and Recycling, this week claimed he was given three days' notice to make his verbal statement to last week's council meeting.

Mr Cann, who was ejected from the Conservative Party after standing - and winning - as an Independent in the county council elections, claimed he was effectively "thrown to the lions."

He said: "I would point out I only learned of the overspend after the event and at a time when the council were already committed. I am not the project manager and I did not prepare the tender costing. These are all matters for the professionals and it is for them to justify the overspend and how it was arrived at."

He claimed Mr Brailey should have taken the matter formally to the Executive along with an officer report, in the first place to allow a full and open discussion.