COUNCIL chiefs say they are working up a business case for Huddersfield’s iconic George Hotel that will ensure its success within a hospitality sector impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

And the Labour-led authority has once again stated that the business will not be financially viable if it also incorporates the much-trumpeted National Rugby League Museum.

That has sent shock waves through opposition groups who for 18 months have sought a business plan for the project but have never received one.

One critic, Green councillor Andrew Cooper, said he was “flabbergasted” and suggested there was no plan in place.

Another, the Conservatives’ Martyn Bolt, said a full business case should have made made available before the council bought the dilapidated hotel for £1.8m.

Speaking last week Shabir Pandor, leader of Kirklees Council, said the joint hotel and museum concept “would leave local tax payers on the hook to the tune of around £20m plus interest payments”.

The council says that figure relates to “the projected cost to taxpayers if a combined museum and hotel concept was to go ahead”, and not the refurbishment of the Grade II*-listed 1850s building.

Reacting to calls to unveil a business plan for the hotel, senior councillor Peter McBride said one relating to the hotel development was “in progress”.

That is understood to be separate to a business case for the acquisition of the building in 2020.

The hotel was chosen as future site of the Rugby League Museum after Bradford City Hall was dropped from the plans in 2020.

Clr McBride said: “Our vision is to complete the large-scale renovation needed within the [George Hotel] and to make it a successful hotel.

“The business plan for the hotel development is in progress and will go through a public decision-making process in the future.”

He added: “We’ve approached this project with the utmost due diligence.”

He said a business plan had to be in place before the council could confirm an overall cost and a timescale for the renovation works.

Clr Bolt (Con, Mirfield), who has made repeated requests for a business plan for the George, said: “I am shocked that for a reputed £20m cost to the public purse and people of Kirklees no consideration was given to the financial viability of this project right at the start.

“Our residents wouldn’t be allowed a loan without proof they were able to repay, but it seems Clr Pandor and colleagues are putting us into debt on the premise they can take from the council taxpayers when they want to “The building structural report and the full business case should have been seen before  buying the building.”

His party colleague Clr Richard Smith (Kirkburton), who in 2020 questioned whether the council possessed the expertise to run a hotel, said the latest episode smacked of “incompetence”.

He said: “The reputation of Huddersfield and, more widely, Kirklees, has been tarnished by this decision and it just demonstrates, yet again, the totally chaotic administration moving from one disastrous decision to another.

“They repeatedly refuse to listen to anyone, speaking to themselves and ignoring any other opinion.

“How much longer do the people of Kirklees have to put up with this chaos?”

Speaking on behalf of the Lib Dem group, Clr Anthony Smith from Lindley said if there was a business plan he was not aware of it, nor has he had sight of it and he did not believe it had been shared with all councillors.

Clr Cooper, whose Newsome ward includes Huddersfield town centre, said: “I’m flabbergasted that Kirklees have committed millions to the refurbishment of the George Hotel without a business plan.

“I welcomed the purchase of the George by the council when it was first mooted as a way of stopping it being left to rot. I immediately asked for a business plan to ensure it had a secure future in our town.

“I and other councillors have asked again and again to see it. Now, astoundingly, we discover there is no plan.

“Not only are we being kept in the dark, it appears Kirklees Council is working in the dark.

“I am so angry that we are so lacking in leadership from the Labour Cabinet, that we treat our ‘partners’ in the Rugby League with such contempt and that the council is so secretive about its plans or, as it appears now, non-plans.”

Clr Cooper has echoed calls by the leader of the Lib Dems on Kirklees Council, Clr John Lawson, for Clr Pandor to resign.