Harrogate Borough Council were last night expected to move a step closer to selling off Harrogate’s landmark council offices and move to a new purpose built £9million building at Knapping Mount .
The Cabinet were set to discuss the move at a meeting last night (Wednesday, July 8) and it was expected they would unanimously vote to push ahead with the project, despite questions being raised at an Overview and Scrutiny meeting on Tuesday (July 7).
Lib Dem Councillors questioned if the council was choosing contractors based on price rather than quality, an allegation Deputy Leader Coun Michael Harrison (Con, Killinghall) denied.
Around 25 per cent of the councillors’ documents relating to the office move were on ‘pink papers’ meaning they are unavailable to the public and around half of the meeting was held behind closed doors.
Council leader, Coun Richard Cooper (Con, High Harrogate) told the meeting that the move and new build would cost £8.72million which would be paid back after seven years and four months due to efficiency savings.
However opposition leader Coun Phillip Broadbank (Lib Dem, Starbeck) questioned the level of savings and argued that the £269,000 staffing costs savings were already being made without moving officers following a management review.
He said: “These savings are happening anyway.”
Harrogate Borough Council’s chief executive Wallace Sampson said the staffing savings will continue: “Once we are in a single building we can maybe see even more savings.”
Figures reported to the committee show that council officers walking between the various offices cost the council £85,000.
Coun Helen Flynn (Lib Dem, Nidd Valley) expressed her disapointment that just 12 per cent of the energy used in the new building will be from renewable sources.
She said: “That isn’t carbon neutral, that isn’t anywhere near carbon neutral by any stretch of the imagination.”
Coun Cooper tried to assure residents and councillors that the council’s historical artefacts will be protected. He said: “Comments that we are selling off all the council’s heritage are misplaced and I want to see more artefacts on public display.”
The report to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee said that the plans would save an estimated £860,000 per year. Coun Cooper said: “It is realistic to expect that in five years time there might be no government grants for local councils so we will need that money to spend on local services, to tend the gardens, to collect the rubbish and runthe swimming pools.”
The plans will go before the full council next week on July 15 for final app roval.