The Labour Administration at Northumberland County Council have published their plans for the new County Hall in Ashington in detailed tender documents and the Conservative Opposition Group has obtained copies which prove to be revealing of Labour’s intention to lavish multi millions on their heartland. The shocking truth is being revealed piece by piece.
Despite repeated refusals to openly debate the project, it is now clear from the published tender documents that the full details have been hidden from Councillors and from the public view. The following aspects have never been disclosed so, despite denials from Labour, this project can truly be described as a “Palace for Councillors”, the overall project is far more expensive than originally claimed, this huge building will cause massive traffic congestion in Ashington due to the lack of space for car parking and the design life for such buildings is stated as being a minimum of 60 years.
So, far from tendering for a basic office unit, contractors are being asked to include “landscaping to the Atrium” £20,000, “Artist Works” £10,000, a “Water feature for the Atrium” £20,000 and “Atrium furniture” £20,000. One can only imagine how lavish this will be. The entrance to this unnecessary new building is designed to have the feel of a Five Star hotel at the taxpayer’s expense – truly a Palace for Councillors.
It is also stated in the tender documents that the scope of the project encompasses far more than just the construction of a single building bringing the total cost up to a potential £80 million. The contractor will be tasked to demolish and clear large areas of central Ashington , move utilities at a cost of £565,000, construct an entirely new road system at £7.5 million, install a multi-million GHSP system , build the new HQ building as well as potentially develop two other large plots, Plot 3A and Plot 4, which have not so far been publicly disclosed . All of this bringing the final bill to a staggering total of £80 million.
The tender plans show the how little parking is being provided for a busy office building designed for 900 staff as well as the many visitors experienced at a County Council. Only 475 car parking spaces are being built and yet one of the car parks is set for Plot 4. The same Plot 4 that is programmed for building development. So this car park will be laid and then grubbed up as a site for building. Then where do staff go to park? The answer it seems is that there is space but 2 kilometres away. This is a clear indication of the chaos which could descend upon Ashington and perhaps a clue that this is a County Council that is not planning to have public contact.
Finally, to rub salt into the public’s wound, the design life of all of the main structures of the new HQ building a set to be a minimum of 60 years. Yet the Labour-run Council is determined to demolish at great expense a perfectly functional building, built to similar protocols, on the existing site in Morpeth. Despite persistent calls for a full condition report on the existing County Hall by the Conservatives, it is little wonder that Labour has not seen fit to do this basic work because, as everyone suspects, there is nothing structurally wrong with the current building as it has a design life with over 20 years left to run.
Coun Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland Conservatives said, “If proof were needed that this is nothing more than a huge Labour vanity project, then it is laid out in detail within these tender documents.
The idea of destroying the existing building to justify this £80 million project is nothing other than economic vandalism and the impact of this Council’s enormous debts is seen in the repeated cuts to essential local services and will bring higher Council tax bills for year to come.
The Conservatives are doing their duty as an opposition to scrutinise such a massive use of public money and it is clear that the Labour-run Council is running scared of being held to account in public and would prefer deals done in smoke filled rooms out of the public eye.
I think the true intent of the Ashington project shows in the provision in the tender for NCC external signage hidden away at the back of the document at a cost of £50,000. Yes, £50,000 for even more photos of Grant Davey, even more potentially political propaganda again at the expense of the taxpayer. People are right to be disgusted by this.
From the start the Conservative Group have consistently said that there is very little wrong with the existing County Hall building in Morpeth and that this new HQ building in Ashington will be nothing more than a white elephant.
Now the public can all see that we have a County Council which persists in spending multi millions on vanity schemes yet is running down essential daily services such as our libraries or even our local Fire Service. Residents say to me that there is a real need for change at our County Council and that what we all need is a County Council that works for everyone.”