IT HAS been branded a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Council chiefs in Southampton have been criticised for paying consultants more than £150,000 for drawing up plans for an estate regeneration scheme that has since been scrapped.

Critics of the city’s Labour administration say the cash could have been spent on local services in Millbrook and Maybush instead.

But civic leaders say the consultants’ work will still be used when tower blocks in the area are replaced and that residents are supportive of their new strategy.

That has seen them move from planning the wholesale regeneration of entire estates to replacing the city’s worst blocks one by one, as revealed by Daily Echo.

They say the change, which does not affect the current overhaul of Townhill Park, was forced on them by Government social rent caps that left them £493million worse off.

However their opponents have accused them of “letting down” residents in council estates, while some in Millbrook and Maybush said they felt “betrayed”.

The council says it spent £152,533 on fees to consultants Pell Frischmann and Capita to draw up initial plans for the regeneration of Millbrook and Maybush, which included 500 new homes.

Independent councillor Andrew Pope, who left the Labour group last year, accused his former colleagues of being dishonest for blaming the Conservative government “for anything and everything”, but said they had “wasted” the money on the consultants.

He said the consultants were “given confusing direction and unsurprisingly provided very unpopular proposals”, adding “the Labour council has angered, confused and worried residents, and it’s clear they feel their time and effort was wasted.

“All this money could have been spent on fixing our roads, keeping Brownhill House open and improving housing in Millbrook, Redbridge and Maybush,” he added.

However a city council spokesman insisted the work already done in Millbrook and Maybush “will not go to waste”, adding that plans for an extra-care block and housing for residents aged over 55 at Woodside Road and Wimpson Lane were at an advanced stage and work could begin next summer.

He told the Daily Echo: “We will be reviewing the other options for regeneration at Millbrook and Maybush with the local community and identifying which elements it is appropriate to bring forward at this stage.”

Council leader Simon Letts added: “We’re going to be using some of their work because some of the blocks that will get knocked down have been identified by the Millbrook and Maybush team, so that work will help us.

“What it helps to do is eliminate things the residents didn’t want to happen, so they will be dropped.”

He said that included proposals to build on green spaces in the consultants’ report.

He said: “From the meeting I went to of the steering group for Millbrook and Maybush, they said we want some blocks replaced by new ones and look at plots of land where we can build one or two houses.”