March 10, 2009 5:23 PM

Newcastle East Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesman Greg Stone has hit back at a Labour ambush over their criticism of Newcastle council for not bringing forward spending on school improvement projects, and has turned the tables by challenging senior Labour ministers to bring forward spending on the refurbishment of the Byker Wall and Estate.

The Lib Dem run city council has submitted a bid to Government for PFI funding for a major scheme to transform the Byker Wall estate, which is increasingly showing its age after being built in the early 1970s, but is still waiting for the Government to make up its mind on the application.

If successful the £210 million initiative would create massive new opportunities for local firms including joiners, electricians, and plumbers, as well as transforming the quality of the estate for residents.

The Government have recently confirmed that the pot of money available for schemes of this kind has been halved.

The Lib Dems have now challenged the Government to make up its mind on an application for £80m of funding for the scheme, which has been languishing on ministerial desks for months.

They claim this would be a better use of senior ministers time than engaging in "spurious" attacks on the city council over schools spending which is already planned and which will go ahead in coming years.

Greg Stone said: "It is a fact that under the Lib Dems Newcastle City Council has one of the largest capital spending programmes in the country, and I fully support efforts to allow local companies to benefit from construction opportunities. However, rather than making spurious attacks on the Lib Dems because we are committed to long-term spending to replace outdated Victorian primary schools rather than quick fixes, Labour ministers like Nick Brown should put their money where their mouth is.

"The Lib Dems will continue to campaign for much needed investment to restore the physical fabric of the estate which has been neglected by Labour. Rather than delaying any longer, the Government should release much needed funds to transform the Byker Estate, creating a huge benefit to local residents and local businesses alike."