Angry Conservative councillors have accused Basildon Council of using “sleazy” and “underhand” tactics by taking money away from Billericay and spending it on Wickford.

The regeneration and environment committee discussed the public improvement project to refresh the High Streets in Billericay, Wickford and Laindon at its latest meeting.

Billericay had £320,000 allocated to install LED lamps, provide lighting for the war memorial, and replace street furniture. However, £313,000 was also needed for Wickford.

Councillor Frank Ferguson, vice chairman of the regeneration and environment committee, made an amendment to transfer £250,000 from the Billericay budget to Wickford - leaving Billericay with £70,000.

Phil Turner, conservative councillor for Billericay West, was outraged by the decision.

He said: “The administration is out there to sink Billericay.

“This is just another example of the administration’s sleazy and immoral politics.

“Councillor Ferguson didn’t explain enough why he made the amendment.

“While it is within the constitution for the committee to transfer approved funds for a project to another one, but morally it’s wrong.

“The funding had been approved for Billericay two months ago. There was no transparency, or even discussion why Wickford should be prioritised. I think they came prepared. This leaves us with £70,000 and we can’t do much with that.”

Terri Sargent, councillor representing Crouch, said: “There was a lack of transparency during the meeting.

“There wasn’t even a debate or discussion about why the funding was transferred to Wickford. It’s just spiteful. And it’s sneaky.

“When Billericay residents find out about this they will be very upset.”

This decision comes shortly after plans to have car park spaces replacing the bottle banks in South Green were scrapped, and funding for Billericay swimming pool was put on hold last month.

Councillor Frank Ferguson was contacted for a comment, but was unable to provide one before the paper went to print.