Kirklees Council’s hopes of bringing the National Rugby League Museum to Huddersfield appear to be hanging by a thread.

The council has back-tracked on a bid to house the museum in the restored George Hotel, the birthplace of the sport in 1895.

Council leader Shabir Pandor revealed that the cost of housing the museum inside the hotel would be £20 million, leaving council taxpayers with ongoing debt charges.

It has emerged the council didn’t produce a business case prior to winning a bid with the Rugby League to locate the museum in the sport’s spiritual home.

The council now says the figures don’t add up for the George Hotel and want to move the location of the RL museum to the proposed Cultural Heart in the Piazza area of the town.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s Cabinet, Clr Peter McBride, Cabinet member for regeneration, revealed he had spoken to RL officials to explain the situation.

READ MORE: The latest statement from the RFL on the George Hotel museum

He insisted the council had acted in good faith throughout and there was no intent to mislead anyone.

“The Rugby League are unhappy and upset but they were not misled,” he said. “They were given information that was true but ultimately proved not to be true.

“I understand their sense of hurt and frustration and I would hope they can work with us to still put a museum within Kirklees and within the Cultural Heart.

“If it can’t be, then so be it but we want to work with the Rugby League to achieve our objectives and, ideally, what might be theirs.”

Clr McBride admitted that the scale of the repair and restoration to the grade II*-listed hotel, derelict since 2013, had been greater than the council had anticipated.

He said: “We did genuinely believe we could house everything together. In the light of experience ie taking over the building, looking at in detail all the problems that were inherit in the building, the scale of the problems were far bigger than what we had originally presumed.

“You take decisions in the light of experience. There was no intent of misleading anyone. The bottom line is what are you trying to achieve by having bought this building, which is a very expensive building. Does the council want a hotel or a museum? It’s almost a choice between the two, which was never our intent. Essentially, we bought a hotel to renovate and re-develop as a hotel.

READ MORE: 11 shocking pictures that reveal the scale of decay at the George Hotel

“We have talked directly at length with the people involved and we have acted in good faith but ultimately we are responsible to the ratepayers of Kirklees and we have to be sensible. We are making a judgement in those terms.”

Clr Pandor has faced calls for his resignation from the Liberal Democrats who said the debacle had become damaging to the council’s reputation.

At the Cabinet meeting, Conservative leader Clr David Hall questioned why the Cabinet had agreed to house the museum in the hotel without a business case.

Clr Shabir Pandor

Clr Pandor said the museum proposal had never been brought to Cabinet and the only decision made by Cabinet was to purchase the hotel.

He said: “The George Hotel was a blight on the townscape of Huddersfield. It’s a building that had been empty for a number of years.

“Because we were drawing up a Blueprint for Huddersfield it was an opportunity to put this back into the heart of the community. We actually bought it from the previous owner because otherwise the building would still be empty and that is the commitment we made.

“The commitment that was made then and the proposal that came forward to Cabinet was fully costed from outline to full business case and it was a very difficult decision to make but all the cashflows were done, a business case was put forward and the decision was made to bring the building back as a hotel.”

Clr Pandor said the opportunity to bid for the museum came later.

“The bid was only a bid,” he said. “It was not a detailed bid in terms of what it would cost. It was an intention of intent and that was made very clear at the time.

READ MORE: How the Mayor of West Yorkshire put the boot into museum plans for the George Hotel

“At every stage we have to look at the cost, the effectiveness, the value for money and the timescales.

“We found at a very early stage it became clear it would cost us £20 million to house the RL museum there and on top of that it would cost us year on year in interest and debt charges.

“It’s unfortunate we are having to review that bid. I am genuinely disappointed. We are still working with the Rugby League and the Rugby League Cares charity.

“These things will happen especially when we are developing a multi-million pound Blueprint. We still have loads of other schemes to look at.

“The key acid test for me is: ‘Is it value for money for the taxpayer?’ That’s the bottom line. When you are being advised that this will be a massive drain on resources and it will just suck out money from the regeneration programme then my role is to actually make the decision in the interest of taxpayers.

“The decision of this Cabinet was never to put the RL museum here. It was to buy the building. It was always a challenge and I have always been very careful in how we move forward.”

Scaffolding wrap on the front of the George Hotel

Clr Hall probed further and said: “What you have said then in a nutshell is that you approved a bid for the museum in Huddersfield without having seen a business case and the business case was done afterwards. Would you say that was normal practice?”

Clr Pandor replied: “We did not have the full costings. It was a bid. A bid could be an expression of interest. There was no business case.

“A business case was developed further down the road. When you are spending public money the business case process is actually a long process and can take a long time. We have to make sure we account for every single penny.

“The intention was always a sincere one. I would have loved the hotel and museum to be housed there. I don’t do operational management, that’s what we leave to officers.

“The bid came along and it was approved but once we came to the detail, the proposal they want us to go down does not stack up.

“As far as this administration goes it’s not money we can spend.”