A former Shropshire councillor has said he is appalled by the authority’s decision to go ahead with an £18.7 million revamp of its headquarters.
Councillor Duncan Kerr told the Advertizer he is “appalled” by the vote by the Cabinet to go ahead with the full refurbishment to ensure the long-term future of Shirehall in Shrewsbury after it was decided it would cost too much to move to a new building.
And he added that it is part of a “short-sighted” plan by the council which includes the purchase of shopping centres in Shrewsbury.
Cllr Kerr, who is still an Oswestry Town councillor, said: “I think it is appalling given the state of the council. It is bizarre that given how small councils will be in the future now is not the time to spending £18m on a revamp.
“I think it was Keith Barrow [former Shropshire Council leader] who looked at selling Shirehall and putting Shropshire Council offices into empty town centre shops – that is the way the council should be going.”
He continued: “It is amazingly short-sighted and I will be putting a motion to the town council about that and the decision to spend £16m on buying shopping centres which has huge long-term implications and shows a long-term interest in Shrewsbury but what does that tell you about their priorities for Oswestry?
“It’s an amazingly poor decision.”
Cllr Kerr added: “If people had voted for this then it would be something, but there was nothing in the election literature about this and there hasn’t been a public consultation about them spending this much money.”
The complete refurbishment and reconfiguration of Shirehall would include improvements to the building which will reduce future maintenance liabilities, improve running costs and increase working efficiencies.
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for corporate support, said: “The building is expensive to run – windows span its expanse, and they are all single-glazed, making it extremely inefficient to run. There are also lots of repairs needed after limited investment over the years.
“We are excited about the prospect of sharing the space with others and making the building more commercial, and we’ve already had some interest. But we first need to ensure that the building is a place they want to be.”
Further work will now be undertaken to develop the proposal, at a cost of £300,000 before a final recommendation will then be made to Cabinet and then council in early 2018.