Petition launched to fight new HBC Office move

Here on Harrogate Borough Council my colleagues and I have been fighting the Conservatives’ plans to spend in the region of £10 million on building brand new offices to house the central administration of the Council.  I have launched a petition that you can sign if you agree with us that there are better ways of spending this money.  The link to the petition is on the home page of my website.

You can find below an extract from a recent press release that we as a group have sent out that outlines why we disagree with the Conservatives on this and what our plans are to update Council facilities.

The Conservative Group have broadly approved a plan to spend an approximate net  capital amount of £10 million (after property disposals) on the new office buildings.  They have already commissioned initial work from a range of contractors, costing in the region of £885,000*, before a final “go-ahead” decision is made by the Council in January 2015.  If the Conservatives do not go ahead with their plan, this approximate £885,00 would become abortive costs.  This would a phenomenal waste of public funding, particularly at a time when some swingeing cuts have just been announced to local bus services, approved by the Conservatives at County Hall.

Cllr Helen Flynn, Shadow Lib Dem Member for Finance and Resources at the Council said, “There are so many reasons why we oppose the scheme– this is simply not just a case of ‘tit for tat’ local politics.  But there are three main reasons: first, the unnecessary waste of local taxpayers’ money at a time when we know grants from Government are continuing to fall year on year and we are seemingly hamstrung from raising more locally from council tax, for example, judging by recent events.  We would rather spend such capital money as is available now on much needed upgrades to local infrastructure. 

“Second, the efficiency savings given as the rationale for this new-build scheme are predicated over a 25-year period.  Who knows what the world will look like in 25 years’ time?  The private sector, in my experience,  would be looking for a real payback on any capital scheme in 4-5 years. 

“Third, there is so much financial and structural uncertainty over the future of local government, that making this decision now, prior to the next General Election in 2015, seems slightly reckless.  There is a strong chance that there will be a nationwide move to unitary status after 2015, and the cuts to central Government grants to local authorities since 2010 have been giving us strong clues, in my opinion, as to the way things are going.”

The Lib Dem Group has been in favour of using such land as is available at Knapping Mount for affordable housing rather than as a site for shiny new offices.  Councillor Philip Broadbank, Leader of the Lib Dem Group, said, “We are crying out for more affordable homes across the district, and Knapping Mount would make a perfect infill site for a good number of affordable homes which would not put too much strain on local infrastructure.”

* The  potential abortive costs comprise the following elements: Full Professional Advisory Team (architect, quantity surveyor, planning consultant, mechanical and electrical engineer, etc) and an internal project manager over 2 stages before a final decision is taken in January 2015.

 

 

Comments

ANDREW HART
Reply

Helen,
I could not agree with you more. There may well be a case for a single Council HQ but now is not the time to investigate it, let alone spend £9,000,000 + on it. Let the electorate see the benefits of resurfacing residential roads and footpaths, improved recycling, job creation for the young and the 50somethings who no body wants, improved social and medical care. Forget prestige offices, forget incinerators, sort out the needs of the disenchanted electorate then look at a northern link to the southern by pass. Thus opening up the possibilities for properly planned house building and expansion.

Clare Skardon
Reply

Agree some consolidation needed, but there is lots of unused space in the current 4 sites. Crescent Gardens is our Heritage, visitors love the history, it can be refurbished and re jigged at half the cost.
The 9 million is now 10 million, including consultancies and I would be amazed if the build comes in under 14 million.
The latest one day poll on the Harrogate Informer, shows 85% against it, very different to Current leadership’s survey who claim 57% are for it.
People just don’t know about it and the credible alternatives have not been properly investigated. On a recent survey 2 weeks ago, one in 10 had heard something or other, sounds about right…. There was outcry in Scarborough recently over a similiar issue, residents rejected new Offices, hoping the sensible residents of our area will question this, this will be critical in next few months to this extravagant project, when all services are being cut back.

Jeannette Wilson
Reply

Electronic communication is taking over functions formerly undertaken manually with the consequent reduction in staff, so why do we need to spend money on a new expensive building when the one we have is adequate and will suffice for the future. Conservatives are telling the public to tighten their belts and yet they are happy to create a debt for the Town which is not essential. It’s not do as we do, it’s do as we say.

Andrew Town
Reply

I seem to recall that when the burgers of Harrogate wanted to build a conference centre the estimates were found to be wildly out with the final cost being many times the original budget. It will not be £9m.

PS I wanted to sign the petition against the New Council Offices but there doesn’t seem to be any link on this website. I have alredy tried the rediculously long web address in your leaflet without success.

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