Row erupts over controversial '£3m to £5m' council building extension

PUBLISHED: 12:13 30 November 2012 | UPDATED: 12:18 30 November 2012

Campus East

Campus East

Archant

NOW is "not the time" to spend up to £5million extending a council headquarters in WGC, bosses have been told.

Last week opposition members at Welwyn Hatfield Council attacked plans to carry out the work on the Campus East building.

But leaders hit back, claiming the move - set to see 150 staff move into the offices - would save cash.

If the authority does extend Campus East, a council chamber would be included in the plans - meaning the current chamber in Campus West could be put to more profitable use, with wedding receptions among the ideas mooted.

Earlier this month, cabinet members agreed to spend £50,000 on assessment and design work.

At a full council meeting, Councillor Kieran Thorpe, who heads the opposition Labour group, said he believed the extension would cost between £3m and £5m.

He told the chamber: “At a time when the council is making cuts to our most vulnerable residents, now is not the time to be embarking on projects like this and sending that message to our residents.”

And councillor Malcolm Cowan, Liberal Democrat, said: “Already it sounds like it’s been agreed.

“We not long ago spent millions of pounds on Campus East, but it looks as if the work wasn’t done looking at what was required.

“I’m not sure whether having a snazzier office is giving a better service to the public.”

Bosses say the move is needed because the lease on offices in Bridge Road East is set to expire in 2015.

Councillor Alan Franey, Conservative, said: “I think this is fully justified, we improve the services to the public and we increase our income, which in turn will help us avoid reducing further frontline services.”

And leader councillor John Dean said: “I don’t think anyone’s suggested we should have a grand oak-panelled council chamber, all we need is a room big enough so this room [in Campus West] can be used to raise more income.

“The sums really do add up very favourably when we look at the income that could be available to us.”

He said no decision had yet been taken, but added: “If it does [add up], we’d be letting down our residents if we didn’t make the best use of their money.”

Councillor Sandra Kyriakides said Campus West could be used for weddings, but said: “There are quite a few rooms available, however I gather they don’t make a lot of money.”

The authority has been tight-lipped on how much it expects the extension to cost.

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