Scarborough Council’s £10m waterpark gamble could have been shelved, had five absent councillors voted in the crunch knife-edge vote.
A single vote made the difference when the cash-starved authority recently agreed to pump the money into the heavily-delayed North Bay attraction. The vote was 23-22, with five councillors not in attendance at the meeting.
However, Cllr Sam Cross claimed that he would have opposed the divisive development had he attended the vote.
And other councillors, including a cabinet member, say they couldn’t be sure which way they would have been swayed in the crucial vote.
Now UKIP councillor Cross has said the cash-strapped authority should have called for a public referendum before loaning cash for the “white elephant in the making”.
“I just think for something as major as this, when they are spending millions of taxpayer’s pounds, the public should have had their say,” said the Filey ward councillor, who was holidaying during the September 9 vote.
“I’m dead against the waterpark – it’s a bad deal for the borough.
“The majority of people living here are on low wages, they can’t afford to pay £100 to take their family out for the day.”
The other councillors who missed the vote were Conservatives John Blackburn and Marie Harland, who has attended just over a third of her meetings this year.
Labour councillor John Ritchie and Independent councillor Brian Simpson, the cabinet member for democracy, also failed to vote, the latter claiming he was “struck down with a virus”.
“I was wrestling with a decision on it, as it was a huge decision for the council,” said Cllr Simpson.
He said he would have waited to hear the presentation made at the meeting, before casting his vote.
He added: “I didn’t want to see the site derelict, especially when there was something there ready to move on to it.”
However, developer Roland Duce had warned the council that future plans at his proposed £100m development would be scrapped if they hadn’t borrowed the cash.
And Cllr Simpson added: “I felt as a council we were being backed into a corner. No disrespect to Mr Duce, he’s a developer and he has to do what he has to do, but I don’t like that.”
Work on the all-weather waterpark is due to be completed by 2015, and will be one of the crown jewels in the proposed Burniston Road development.
Other attractions would include a restaurant and a large car park.
The Scarborough News made several attempts to contact Cllr Ritchie and Cllr Harland, but both failed to return our calls.
However Cllr Blackburn, who didn’t attend because he was attending an employment tribunal in Newcastle, said that if he’d witnessed the presentation, he could easily have been swayed to vote against borrowing the cash.
“I just can’t be 100 per cent sure either way,” said the Cayton ward representative.
“I was always for the park, but I could have been persuaded that borrowing £9m was too much.”
However, he rejected Cllr Cross’ suggestion of a public referendum, adding: “We are elected by the people to make decisions for the people.
“If the people don’t like it, then they have the power to get rid of us.”