An investigation has been launched into a £400,000 council chamber described as “vanity project” by the new leader.

Andrew Baggott, head of the Conservative group on Basildon Council called for an inquiry into Basildon Council’s council chamber, claiming it was not worth the money paid and authorised by the former ruling coalition.

He said: “When we experienced the chamber, our first thought was we did not have £400,000 worth of council chamber here.

“I think it was a vanity project on the part of the previous administration.”

The chamber itself cost £300,000 to be built, with a further £100,000 budgeted to create a new audio and video recording system.

The system was installed as Basildon was the only council in Essex that didn’t livestream its meetings online.

Mr Baggott added: “We had a meeting in there to discuss the local plan for Bowers Gifford.

“We had to turn all the microphones off because the moment anyone spoke something would go wrong.

“We’d either have issues where one member would turn on their microphone and another’s would also turn on, then you would have feedback and lots of issues.

“The officers themselves had to sit in the audience with the public rather than being sat in a proper place for council staff.

“We are not carrying out a witch hunt of council officers, we want to look at the money spent and find where the value is.

“From a taxpayer’s point of view, the chamber we have has not been worth the money.”

Adele Brown, leader of the Labour group questioned Mr Baggott’s decision, asking why he was not in favour of creating a transparent council with the new video system.

She said: “The amount that was spent was clearly laid out for everyone to see and it was very transparent. In our first meeting there were technical difficulties but we were told that down to ‘user error’.

“This chamber can in no way be called a vanity project, it is the chamber these residents deserve so that we can carry out meetings in a way that everyone can see, as not everyone is able to come to council meetings.

“Not everyone will want to sit in the council chamber all night, this way we can increase community engagement and get our residents more involved.

“If you look at our borough, we have the lowest figures for engagement and for attendances at elections, this is going to help drive those numbers up.”

“I do not understand how a 21st century chamber could be looked at negatively.”

Basildon Council will hold a meeting on the issue next month.

A council spokesman said: “The first meeting of the performance scrutiny committee will be held on Wednesday, July 18 with the agenda published a week before.”