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£600k spend at Hazel Court council base sparks row
MORE than £600,000 is to be spent on refurbishing a six-year-old council base in York – despite claims from councillors that money is being wasted on the scheme.
City of York Council says the work at its Hazel Court facility, which houses staff and a waste recycling centre, is necessary to make it “fit for purpose” once the authority leaves a string of buildings when its new £43.8 million West Offices HQ is completed.
As well as moving out of its St Leonard’s Place offices, the council also plans to leave Guildhall, St Anthony’s House and its office in York Road, Acomb, meaning space needs to be found for about 200 staff as well as 47 councillors.
The adaptations to Hazel Court, off James Street, will cost £618,000, but officials said the move would save £235,000 a year by leaving the other buildings.
The scheme was voted through at a full meeting of the authority last week, but Osbaldwick councillor Mark Warters described the expenditure on Hazel Court – which cost £1.3 million to build – as “an abomination”.
He said: “We are wasting money on a vanity project at a building which has only been up five minutes. The work involves removing partitions at Hazel Court, but at the same time partitions are being installed at West Offices. If there is £618,000 available to spend, it should be spent on frontline services, not fancy offices.”
The council said other organisations, such as York Citizens Advice Bureau and North Yorkshire Police, were set to use space at West Offices, and the work at Hazel Court would mean increased and “more flexible” office space as well as allowing it to operate as a “disaster recovery site” for the council in emergencies.
Coun Julie Gunnell, cabinet member for corporate services, said: “We have not got the money to maintain Guildhall or invest in it and we cannot accommodate all staff at West Offices, so we are becoming a more streamlined council and saving money by moving into just two buildings.”