THE Kirklees Council Labor leader said he would seek legal advice before confirming whether the authority had a business case for buying the George Hotel from Huddersfield.
His reluctance to give a definitive answer will fuel the growing view that the council acted without due diligence when it spent £1.8m on the building.
The council denied this accusation.
It is the latest step in the increasingly messy saga of the George, which is currently the subject of a tussle over whether it should house a National Rugby League museum, which was originally intended open at Bradford Town Hall prior to this project. was discontinued in 2020.
At a Cabinet meeting (February 22), Clr Pandor was asked directly by senior Tory John Taylor: ‘It’s a yes/no question: is there a business case for acquiring the ‘George Hotel?’
Clr Pandor replied, “I’ll get back to you because I can’t answer yes or no right now.
“I need to seek advice. I don’t want to comment just in case the interpretations are distorted.
Clr Pandor has previously said there is a business case for acquiring the hotel. However, the council did not produce the document, leaving uncertainty about its creation.
Clr Taylor said he was “struggling” with Clr Pandor’s response.
He said: ‘I hope that as head of the council you had an overview of the business case for the acquisition of the George Hotel prior to its acquisition.’
Clr Pandor initially offered to share private papers relating to the purchase, but when Clr Taylor reiterated that he wanted an answer to “a very simple question”, Clr Pandor said: “I won’t get you the papers and I will not seek advice on this.
“We had all the information we needed to make a decision.”
Senior Labor adviser Peter McBride said the Tories were ostensibly trying to suggest a business case was needed “for any action you might take” as part of a larger plan.
He dismissed this rationality as “insane”.
He added: “We acquired the hotel, which was a reasonable thing to do, because it was a sensible thing that was in the interest of the city.
“Whenever you have a problem of this nature, do you need a business plan? If you had that, you would never have done anything.
He accused the Tories of needing a business plan “for everything” when they themselves had “no answers”, which he described as “their norm”.
The council is currently at an impasse with charity Rugby League Cares over a potential future location for the sports museum.
The council says the George Hotel – the birthplace of the sport in 1895 – is not compatible with a hybrid hotel/museum management and that space can be found in the ‘cultural quarter’ planned under the so-called Huddersfield Blueprint . .
Meanwhile, the George’s multi-million pound refurbishment has been put on hold and will resume in the spring.