HALF of Basildon councillors refused to vote on plans for town centre regeneration cash – querying if their taxpayers would see any benefit.

The council met to consider the plans to borrow £100m to buy land or property to to support economic and housing development within town centres.

Before the meeting, Labour council leader Gavin Callaghan and Tory leader Andrew Baggott had “united in support” of the plan.

But on Thursday night, 20 out of 41 councillors abstained, raising concerns the plans were focussed on Basildon town centre, rather than the whole borough.

Mr Callaghan repeatedly insisted the money will be available to all five parts of Basildon.

Tory David Dadds said: “I know the town needs regenerating, but we need investment across the borough. I do not accept Mr Callaghan’s vision that all is inclusive. Actions speak louder than words and this year the coalition coming together have withdrawn regeneration investment from Billericay.

“He has taken away fairly small sums of investment and that does not show his commitment to Billericay.”

Conservative Craig Rimmer added: “Whilst I support the town centre regeneration, I would say don’t forget about our rural communities.

“We do have rural communities in Basildon borough, in terms of roads, flood zones and enforcement activity. We must not forget them.”

Mr Rimmer also raised concerns that Pitsea had lost £2million in funding for its swimming pool, as well as £2.5million for an innovation centre.

Tory Kevin Blake said: “I was disappointed in the report itself, but having said that I have listened to councillor Callaghan and he has made me happy that he has not just mentioned Basildon.

“What concerned me in this report, is that it only picks on Basildon town centre. I accept that most of the money will be spent in Basildon, but it was pleasing to hear other areas mentioned.”

Mr Callaghan said: “The pot of money we are seeking approval for tonight will be there for all five towns in this borough. The alliance is relentlessly pursuing the future. Our town centres should be better, we are invested in recreating their future.

“This special meeting is the start of a story that will end with a thriving borough.

“It will be a borough where all five town centres are popular, with good footfall through the day and into the evening.”

The plan was agreed despite the abstentions.