PLANS to build 18 affordable homes on the site of the old Bromsgrove council offices have been deferred amid claims that the local housing association was being "ripped off" by about £600,000.

A decision to accept a bid to manage the homes at Burcot Lane from the not-for-profit Bromsgrove District Housing Association (BDHT) was put off on Wednesday night (January 20) after district councillors realised they had accidentally revealed confidential financial details in a public meeting.

Things got even worse when councillors were told that the BDHT bid was £2.1 million, well above the council’s valuation of £1.5 million.

When a suggestion that the ‘surplus’ money should be ringfenced for more affordable housing was rejected, Labour Councillor Peter McDonald said it was shocking that the council were ‘ripping off a non-profit organization.’

Other councillors echoed concerns of ‘profiteering’ and were worried that revealing the secret financial figures raised serious legal issues.

But the councillor responsible for housing, Shirley Webb, said: "If BDHT want to pay over the odds that's up to them."

Councillors were told any surplus money would go into the housing scheme, but at that stage members decided there was too much confusion and a deferment was needed until the next monthly meeting.

Today the Conservative group attacked the Opposition members for what they described as ‘political games’ and said they were worried the relationship between the council and BDHT could be undermined.

But Opposition members dismissed the attack, pointing to the fact that it was the Conservatives who had revealed the information in public and created "a right mess".

They also said it was the Conservative Group which had voted against ringfencing the surplus money for more affordable houses.

Demolition of the old offices is due to start within the next few weeks. The 18 BDHT homes fits into an overall development of 61 new homes on the site.

The council are developing the site themselves through BDHT and a private builder.

It is not thought the row over the deal from last night's meeting will endanger the housing project, however.

Mark Robertson, chief executive at BDHT, said: “We are committed to tackling the housing crisis and the massive shortfall in the supply of affordable homes across Bromsgrove.

"With a growing waiting list, we are contacted with cases of hardship on a daily basis and the 18 affordable homes scheduled to be built at Burcot Lane are desperately needed and to be welcomed.

"We will discuss the matters raised at last night’s meeting directly with Bromsgrove District Council. We will continue to strive for more affordable housing provision for the local community and work closely with the council to achieve this.”

A council spokesperson said: “Bromsgrove District Council and BDHT have the same aim and objectives, and equally want the same outcomes – to provide excellent quality affordable housing for our District, so our residents can continue to live and work in their hometown.

“The valuation figures that were stated at Council were based on a range of assumptions and it is important to remember that this authority is also investing significantly into affordable housing for families.

“Senior officers from the Council and BDHT will continue their discussions over the next few days to ensure the very best outcome for our residents and all those who secure a home in the development."