Revealed: £380,000 paid to consultants working on stalled Shropshire Council HQ refurb plan
Shropshire Council has spent more than £380,000 on consultants working on the proposed refurbishment of its headquarters.
Under a Freedom of Information request, Shropshire Council's director of place Mark Barrow has revealed that two firms of consultants 'provided support' and gave advice on the proposed £24 million modernisation of the Shirehall in Shrewsbury.
In November the authority said that work on the scheme had been put on the back burner due to budgetary pressures.
When asked by the Shropshire Star how much the council has spent to date on consultancy fees for the proposed refurbishment, Mr Barrow said that the figure was £381,236.07.
The authority had planned to turn the building into a 'public sector hub' and work would have been completed by autumn 2021.
The work was to be carried out in three phases, with the initial work being to explore the feasibility of a major refurbishment of the 1960s building.
Mr Barrow said: "In July 2017 a specialist multi-disciplinary team of property specialists was appointed to consider options to reconfigure and refurbish Shirehall in order to meet the council’s priorities.
"They carried out various stages of investigative, feasibility, design and business case/costing work, over the course of 18 months, and sub-contracted various specialists, including structural and mechanical and electrical engineers, energy specialists, architects, cost consultants and workplace specialists.
"This work led to preparation of the business case which was presented to full council in December 2018, when approved the spending of £1.15m capital funding to support the next, detailed design stage of the development. However, though the business case is compelling, the project is currently paused in the face of budgetary pressures and this funding has not been spent.
"The cost of work up to and including preparation of the business case is just over £381,000.
"It’s important to note that though the project has been paused, the work carried out to date has provided a great deal of intelligence relating to the building and to the council’s own operating model, and this continues to inform other council workstreams and decisions.
"The council had ambitious plans to create a public sector hub, using the Shirehall, which would save a number of partners money in these times of financial constraint.
"We have been working with partners such as the police and NHS to achieve this and we remain optimistic that partners will be able to take advantage of the opportunity if given more time to consider.
"Gaining commitment to wider use of the Shirehall is critical to the business plan. Without this commitment the council will also look at other options in order to deliver efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint."
The building was designed by Ralph Crowe, the County Architect, and was completed in 1966.
It includes an unusual ovoid-shaped council chamber.
Originally established as the headquarters of Shropshire County Council, it became the offices of the new unitary authority, Shropshire Council in April 2009.