Work on controversial new £9 million offices for Harrogate Borough Council is ‘on time and on budget’ according to council leader Richard Cooper.
The development at Knapping Mount is well underway with the structural beams for the largest section of the building now in place.
The frame for the office accommodation which will house some 500 staff members has been erected and work on the central section and council chamber is due to start in August.
Coun Cooper, meeting with the Harrogate Advertiser on site this week, said the project, which is forecast to cost £8.7 million is on track to be complete by April 2017.
He said: “It’s paid for in stages. I don’t know how much has been paid so far but I do know that it’s on contract, it’s on time and on budget.”
Currently the council, which employs more than 1150 people, has five different office sites, including the main town centre headquarters, Crescent Gardens.
But in July last year councillors voted in favour of amalgamating the five ‘no-longer-fit-for-purpose’ sites into one large new modern building at Knapping Mount.
The plans were met with opposition from residents and the civic society when it was revealed that the historic Crescent Gardens would be sold and the new site had been ‘earmarked’ for housing.
But Coun Cooper and council chief executive, Wallace Sampson argued that the reported estimate of £860,000 in efficiency savings that will be returned from the move did justify the project.
Mr Sampson said: “It’s a combination of reducing our running costs, so heating, lighting, IT all those kind of things. The fact that we will be in one building rather than five obviously means that we will be reducing those costs across a number of different buildings.”
Mr Sampson also said there will be a number of ‘staffing efficiencies’ as the number of reception points moves from five to one.
Coun Cooper also highlighted that eventually the efficiency would pay back the cost of the project, and from then on would generate money for public services.
He said: “The government are cutting every single penny our £5 million pounds that it gives the council. We have got to make that up somewhere.
“This will save our swimming pools, our parks and gardens our conference business and every other council service. It will save all those services because of the £1 million a year that we otherwise wouldn’t have had.”
The council is currently marketing the Crescent Gardens offices either for residential use or as a hotel, and has attracted ‘considerable interest.”