£2m spent on Telford council HQ which may never be used

ALMOST £2 MILLION has been spent on civic offices in Telford which may never be used as council headquarters, it was claimed today.

ALMOST £2 MILLION has been spent on civic offices in Telford which may never be used as council headquarters, it was claimed today.

The incoming Labour administration for Telford & Wrekin Council made the claims after last week vowing it would not use the offices and would instead rent them out.

The offices were planned to be a new base for the authority as part of the £250 million Southwater development.

Today Labour hit out at the project and said too much cash had been spent on it without a brick being laid.

Councillor Bill McClements, who will be cabinet member for resources in the new administration, said: "The people of Telford and Wrekin spoke loud and clear last Thursday and gave the Labour Party a resounding mandate to carry out our manifesto commitment to stop the proposed new council offices at Southwater.

"The Southwater developers have made clear that the scheme is not dependant on the council moving its offices to the site — despite the previous administration saying otherwise - and spending nearly £2 million without laying a brick.

"We continue to support the development. My first job is to get a clear picture of the financial position of the council and in particular to look into the massive capital debt the previous administration was planning."

Labour gained 17 seats to hold 33 of the 54 and return to power in Telford and Wrekin following last week's local election, and within minutes called for an end to the civic offices proposal.

Former leader of the council Andrew Eade today defended the new council offices project.

He said: "Labour tried to do exactly the same thing in the past and wasted £1.2 million. We tried to come to an agreement to develop the town centre. We succeeded where they failed.

"The expense is all part and parcel of costs of the Southwater development, a scheme which could create 2,000 jobs."

New council leader Kuldip Singh Sahota has vowed to rent out the building currently earmarked for the new council offices when they are built and says, if it is possible, the council would look outside the town centre for headquarters.

By Paul Mannion

Comments for: "£2m spent on Telford council HQ which may never be used"

telford resident

Top idea

Rent them out and then find somewhere outside of the town centre for head quarters.

The only place where there is direct access by public transport is the town centre, so new headquarters outside of the town centre does not make sense. Lets make it really difficult for people to get to the headquarters, what a well thought out idea.

Before anybory calls me a tory, then i will politely tell you now that i do not support any party, if i had my way, political parties would be outlawed and all MP's Councillors and other leeches on our society would have to be independant.

That way everything would be voted for on a level field and not because someone is in one party or another. We would then have honest politics and not people lining their own pockets.

marco

so their egos are getting in the way of making sound business decisions. this is from the same lot that got the whole country in debt, sold off our gold reserves at the lowest price in 100 years, and committed us to major wars!

Rodney Nosnail

Well, it is a shame that general redevelopment, and the new civic offices in particular, became a political football in the first place. I'd have thought that it would have been in the interests of all parties, and all the people that they represent, to regenerate Telford centre and create a new focus. Swindon was almost a clone of Telford from the 1980s to the late 1990s. Their council then created a redevelopment and succeeded in turning the town around and making it into a decent place to live and socialise.

I'm a little bit nonplussed by KSS's statement that he'll now rent the proposed offices out instead of moving the workers in. Firstly, because he's obviously not aware of just how much empty office space is lying around town waiting to be rented out already and the new offices risk being empty for a long period of time. Secondly, because it should not really be the council's brief to become office property landlords and have the unfair advantage of access to public funds to compete against private developers who have had to risk their own money. Thirdly, because I am not sure that the council have access to an out of town location to move to, so are they going to have to waste yet more public money in commissioning a survey to find a place and then rent it at a market rate?

I think that the council may be better off just completing their nice new offices and moving into them to enable them to efficiently deliver the public services that they are obliged to deliver rather than rubbing salve on bruised egos and trying to score points.

BJZ

An interesting comment about the amount of empty office space in Telford.

It does beg the question - why didn't the Tories just use that instead of wasting our money in the first place?

Rodney Nosnail

Fair point.

Probably because having received a capital sum from the sale of one building, the best use of that was to invest it in another building and have ownership of the capital as well as a purpose-built office complex.

The problem with renting is that you're out when the landlord wants you out, when a better offer comes along; no councillor in their right mind should want to move the offices to a rented place and then find that they need to do it all again when the lease runs out and another company bids more to take it on.

Always good to also bear in mind that lease agreements are generally subject to "upward only rent" clauses, so effectively paying more and more each year.

And renting a building usually means a lot of money spent on adapting it for the eventual end use. With purpose-built offices in Southwater, the planning stage would assume council office use and be designed accordingly. This would not be the case for a generic shed on Halesfield,(an example being the current NHS shed near to Link which had to be retro-fitted).

The Original Jake

My gut reaction, as somebody who is apolitical: Pathetic. Taking the default position of "we won't do what they did" is just childish. I despise political posturing. This knee-jerk reaction actually makes me quite angry. Grow up.

oldbroadsheet

Labour fought the local election based on the fact they would not move in to these premises so they are actually keeping a fundamental electoral promise - how despicable of them.

Something tells me you would be the first to criticise Labour if they didnt keep this promise? How dare they do something that they said they would all along.

Labout has been quite consistent on this, perhaps you should be questioning instead why Eade continued to squander taxpayers money on the project when he was well aware of the situation should they lose power.

Also why exactly did the work on the offices need to suddenly start prior to this local elections and not wait until its outcome - hmm I wonder?

spencer

" Eade continued to squander taxpayers money when he was well aware of the situation should they lose power "

Are you suggesting that governments/councils should do nothing whilst in power just in case they lose the next election. All Labour have done is start the whole process again just because they feel the need to do the opposite, which will now result in an empty town centre full of empty offices and nothing but To Let signs.

oldbroadsheet

I am suggesting that it was reckless to proceed with a 40m project given that Eade was well aware that he was likely to be our of office within weeks and knew the consequences all too well!

The Original Jake

It's still political posturing for political posturing's sake. I don't care which party's engaging in it, it's a childish game.

spencer

So now we're going to have a town centre full of empty offices with To Let signs in the window.

Anon

i agree. Labour will probably charge way too much in Rent. Also, car parking isn't great round there either!

can you really see the Blue Chip clients waiting at the door to rent the offices out??? I can't

Squire

The council should move onto one of the large empty units on Stafford Park or another industrial estate. There are good bus services, roads, parking etc. There is no reason you cant put a few desks in a warehouse and have an operational office whilst spending next to nothing. It would be much cheaper to buy im comparison and leave the prime, commercial land in the Southwater development for new employers to come to the area.

roadrunner

Yep,it's got to be better than the old council offices that DUDC used to have up on paddock mount....luxury!

oswestrian

Hmmm an intersting argument. As a major employer the council should move to a site which is cheaper - a few desks in a warehouse. Why on earth would new employers then want to move to premises which would be a lot more expensive?

If I was contemplating a move I might take the view that if the Council thought it was a waste of money to take space at Southwater Square, then I will follow that example.

As for the council renting accommodation - well in the long term renting is far more expensive than buying, and a rental agreement could also include a full repairs and maintenance lease. SO yu end up being wholly responsible for the building, but you never own it.

Which also means that if the building does - in the long term - appreciate in value, you don't get the value of that either.

Trust the labour party to get the worst of all worlds!

darren

All the comments on here about the new adminstration being 'childish' and that the Civic offices proposed move should go ahead is very interesting. Wasn't this the precise reasion why the Tories were booted out of office?

And another thing, people like you (Telford resident etc) who didn't vote have no voice and so should shut up immediately.

Vamperic

the "heart" of our town is the town centre. Right? hence Telford Town Centre.

it has always been criticised that it has no night life you cant really walk round it and why would you.

to top it all the "heart" of our town is mostly owned by a private company. Imagine not being able to walk through the centre of Newport, Wellington or Oakengates because the owners have closed for the day and locked up the high streets.

now my point is this developement means that we, the inhabitants of telford have a bit of where we live that is ours and not the shopping centre owners. now seeing as all buses now go through Telford Town Centre as someone mentioned earlier then i want my facilities to be here as well. people seem to have forgotten that it is not just the council workers that are based here but most of our facilities such as housing and coucil tax etc.

basically you are build something for us for the area the council offices were always going to be part of it do me a favour and use them you will be in one place where I can find you with better facilities for your staff and visitors. DONT BE PETULANT CHILDREN!!!

George @ Dawley

So the new council would rip up a sale contract and development contracts and with it, the prospect of construction jobs within the town for the next few years?

Besides the cost of cancelling signed contracts, the damage to the towns reputation (eg Asda loosing its new flagship store), the loss of jobs is simply unforgiveable.

Lets hope there is a plan B to keep jobs within the towns economy.

Captain Oates

I don't think the council offices were necessarily the perfect answer to kick start the redevelopment but at least it was a plan. Working in the property market I can tell you there is certainly no demand by any corporate to move into Telford. This does beg the question as to what they will now do presuming that the £2 mill was infrastructure costs such as drains piling etc which can still be used?

George Ashcroft

“The expense is all part and parcel of costs of the Southwater development, a scheme which could create 2,000 jobs.”

This from Andrew Eade, the man who told us all before the election that the new civic offices "wouldn't cost taxpayers one penny". Thank goodness we have seen the back of him. The question remains: How much has Telford & Wrekin received from Asda for the existing offices site? Has it indeed received anything from Asda yet? Then we can make judgements concerning "value for money". The discredited Eade regime wouldn't tell us the answer to these perfectly valid questions. I call upon the new Labour administration to reveal the figures and let the public judge whether or not a new civic building represents better value than the alternatives.I wouldn't have got involved with it in the first place but Andrew Eade has put us there so we need make a judgement.

Matthew

I think Labour are right to make this stand first of all because it was exactly what they said they would do if they got elected and secondly because I don't believe that at a time when hospitals and schoools are being closed a council should be spending hundreds of millions on a lavish new headquarters.

James

Thats a pretty short sighted view. They may be new, and they may be lavish, but it's cheaper than trying to maintain the existing old building.

While I can see where the Labour party are coming from, I think it would be a huge mistake not moving the council in to the new development. If they try and rent it out it will sit there 90% empty for the next 10 years costing the council more and more money.

Matthew

Have you seen the size of the proposed building? Why does Telford need a council building twice the size of the one Birmingham has?

Grey

How many people really voted for that particular pledge? I bet more people voted Labour because they don't like the current government than because they are against the council moving to Southwater.

Watchdog

I think Labour should keep the existing council offices. The architecture suits their 60s Kremlinesque views regarding economic matters. Maybe we could have a statue of the late great Comrade Brown out front, too? I look forward to a very interesting next few years as this ridiculously politically motivated argument rolls on and the increasingly irritated electorate will have no grounds for complaint because this is what they voted in favour of.

Lol

Oh dear, Mr Victor Brownlees will be pleased tho. Bet he was dreading having to move and reinstall the fountain from his current palatial office to the new one.