Lib Dem leader’s call for clarity as Harrogate Borough Council leader hits back on HQ costs

Harrogate’s Liberal Democrats have renewed calls for the final cost of the new civic headquarters to be revealed - but their demands have been rejected by the council’s Conservative leader who says it is not yet possible to calculate a final figure.

By Jacob Webster
Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 6:08 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 6:10 pm

The council moved into its new home on Knapping Mount more than two-and-a-half years ago after putting its former Crescent Gardens headquarters up for sale.

Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh says they argued against the move from the very beginning and believes the Conservative-run council must now answer “serious questions” about the final cost of its new offices.

Coun Marsh said the people of Harrogate deserved to know if the initial cost of the project had been met, or whether it had proven a more expensive burden to the taxpayer.

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Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh says the Conservative-run council must now answer serious questions.

“Liberal Democrat councillors have opposed this move from the very beginning, arguing that it’s a shocking waste of money and we should be investing in the services that touch people’s daily lives,” she said.

“However, our opposition was ignored by Conservative councillors who stressed at great length that this would be a £9m project which ‘will pay for itself within 5 years’.

“Our residents need to know whether this is still the case, and if not, why not, it is their money and they deserve answers.”

Judith Rogerson, the Lib Dems’ former parliamentary candidate for Harrogate and Knaresborough, added: “We need clear answers on exactly what the move to new council offices has cost.”

However, Coun Richard Cooper, leader of the council, says the authority cannot reveal the final figure because it has yet to be billed by the construction company which has now gone into administration.

He said: “We are still waiting to hear from the official receiver. As soon as we have a final figure it will be made public.

“This is nothing new - we have explained this position previously.

“The contract cost of the Civic Centre was £11.5m. Sales of redundant buildings have come to over £7m. These figures have long been in the public domain. In addition the single building we now occupy saves the council taxpayer around £1m a year in reduced overheads and business rates.

“That is £1m we have been able to spend supporting community groups and businesses through the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Earlier this year, the council finally sold its former Crescent Gardens offices for £4m to Impala Estates - a family-owned property investment business - after a previous development deal to build luxury flats fell through.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter

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