ANGRY councillors have temporarily blocked the "arbitrary" and "wrong" decision by Wyre Forest District Council's cabinet to axe hubs in Stourport and Bewdley.
The local authority's special overview and scrutiny committee voted yesterday evening to refer the decision on the fate of the customer service centres to next Wednesday's full council meeting instead.
Several members spoke passionately in support of the hubs calling them vital for elderly and vulnerable residents, but Conservative cabinet member Nathan Desmond, who made the money-saving call, said both sites had seen "a colossal reduction in usage" making the evidence for change "compelling".
The delay was approved in dramatic fashion as two proposals were tied six votes apiece and in both instances Councillor Liz Davies' casting opinion, as chairman of the committee, swung the tide in favour of referral to the full chamber.
Discussion of the matter was triggered when both Independent Community and Health Concern (ICHC) and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) submitted "call in requests", the first in Wyre Forest for 10 years, to challenge the cabinet's actions.
The ICHC document stated "it is wrong for a single member to make this crucial decision without a full and proper debate" and called for a review into "alternative methods of funding this operation instead of making an arbitrary decision to close".
UKIP's submission similarly argued there was "no consultation with residents or councillors including Stourport and Bewdley town councillors regarding the closure of the hubs".
At yesterday's meeting Labour councillor Vi Higgs said "I am very, very disappointed" while ICHC councillor Cliff Brewer stated "it seems totally wrong to me that a decision of this magnitude can be taken willy-nilly".
Labour councillor Lynn Hyde added "what is to stop you doing the same to the Kidderminster hub next year?" and UKIP councillor Michael Wrench suggested if other members followed the lead of his party and took a reduction in allowances the council would have the money to save the hubs.
Conservative council leader Marcus Hart, who delegated responsibility for the decision to councillor Desmond, however defended the cabinet and the "strong leader" model.
He said: "The reason this decision has been made is to protect and preserve frontline services.
"This council is not run by dictators, it is run by consensus."
For background details on the cabinet decision see The Shuttle's coverage here.