LABOUR has accused the Tory-led Cheshire West and Chester Council of taking the decision to sell Backford Hall behind closed doors.

The authority is asking for offers in excess of £2m for the 1863 Jacobethan mansion, home to the departments of highways, trading standards and waste management

But Labour resources spokesman Cllr Justin Madders said: “The decision was made behind closed doors. I am disappointed that once again the majority of council members learn of another major decision through a press release.”

“We believe the Tory-led administration’s persistence in communicating key decisions about the disposal of the council’s assets in this way damages our council’s reputation for openness and transparency.”

Cllr Les Ford, executive member for resources, responded: “We would agree it is somewhat unfortunate that the council was forced to issue a press release and statement to employees before a formal decision had been taken as part of our ‘asset management’ procedures.

“However, the decision was unavoidable because details of informal discussions were leaked to a local newspaper and the authority was faced with the prospect of staff being ‘informed’ by the media.”

He said Cllr Madders could comment on the plan when the formal decision to sell was considered later this year.