Durham Labour has slammed Tory Coalition plans for a THIRD County Hall as a waste of money that will cost the city thousands of new jobs.
Labour Leader, Cllr Carl Marshall yesterday told a meeting of County Durham Full Council that it was risking creating jobs on the Aykley Heads site, which would be freed up if the Council relocated to a near-complete, purpose-built HQ in the heart of the city.
He said that Coalition plans, revealed two weeks ago, to build a third HQ near to the current County Hall at Aykley Heads would prevent the site becoming a business park, reducing its desirability to potential developers and investors.
Cllr Marshall also accused the Tory-led Coalition, which is propped up by County Durham Lib Dems and Independents, of trying to avoid scrutiny by refusing to allow consultation on the project, having received an email from Council Chair, Watts Stelling, that they would not have time for discussions.
“I am increasingly concerned and angry that the Leader of the Council appears not to have taken into account the enormous reputational damage building a third HQ at Aykley Heads could have on this Council,” said Cllr Marshall. “The report commissioned by this Tory-led Coalition also states that there is only one party interested in the Sands, which completely negates the Council’s position of negotiating strength with nay bidder – how do we secure a good deal when everyone knows there is zero competition for this office space?
“It also confirms that the existing County Hall is no longer fit for purpose following more than a decade of under-funding through the Government’s austerity purge and therefore by far the most cost effective, expeditious and sensible option is to simply move into the building that has been custom-built to suit this authority’s needs.
“It is Labour’s view that a new HQ on Aykley Heads creates uncertainty for investors, jeopardises job creation and is a complete waste of taxpayers’ money…not to mention the fact we need somewhere for our staff to work!
“For something of this scale, councillors must be afforded time to scrutinise plans, but the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Management Board refused to call a special meeting to discuss the proposals. Must we or residents contact the Local Government Ombudsman to ensure a transparent process? It is our job to ensure our taxpayers are receiving a fair deal, but this Coalition seems focused on forcing through this calamitous waste of time, money and effort.”