CITY leaders could be forced to dig deep in their own pockets as a penalty for axing Worcester's Millennium Quayhead scheme.

Nine city councillors face being made to pay more than £5,000 each if they are judged "financially incompetent".

Coun David Barlow has vowed to lodge a complaint with the district auditor, accusing the ruling administration of wasting nearly £50,000.

He claims sanctions could include the nine being barred from office.

In July, eight Conservatives and Independent Mike Layland voted to abandon proposals for artwork at the quayside after hearing the £500,000 project was facing delays because of disagreements between the artist, Thomas Heatherwick, and engineers.

Coun Barlow, leader of the Labour group, claimed the decision had been motivated by "political spite".

"More than £40,000 of public money has been wasted and I'm going to the auditor about it," he said.

A report drawn up by council officers warned that abandoning the scheme would leave the authority with a bill for £40,042, to cover consultancy fees, officers' time and engineering costs.

Worcester multi-millionaire businessman Cecil Duckworth had also contributed £7,000 to cover the initial cost of commissioning Mr Heatherwick.

"The councillors who voted against the proposals might have to pay the total out of their own pockets as a surcharge," claimed Coun Barlow.

He also alleged that further "management costs" might bring the bill to £100,000.

"They could be judged financially incompetent and the sanctions include being barred from office. It's very serious stuff."

He has tried unsuccessfully to have the issue put on the agenda at the next meeting of the full council on Tuesday, September 12, but has since pledged to table a "special motion" instead.

But the leader of the council, Coun Robert Rowden, said he was "not shaking with fear at David Barlow's threats".

"He can go to the auditor if he likes. As far as we're concerned, the Quayhead scheme was a waste of money in the first place," he said.

Under the original proposals, a channel would have been cut in the quay and filled with glass lit by fibre-optics to symbolise the relationship between the city and the River Severn.

Alternatives which are now being considered include a York stone paving design.