Bid defeated to stop funds for County Hall relocation

Northumberland Conservatives protest over plans to relocate County Hall.
Northumberland Conservatives protest over plans to relocate County Hall.

A move to take the proposed County Hall relocation out of council budgets has been voted down.

Morpeth North Conservative member David Bawn hit out at the plans at Northumberland County Council’s budget meeting last week, which could see the authority’s headquarters moving from Morpeth to Ashington.

The council has not even carried out a structural survey on the existing building, which is surely a prerequisite before any discussion of rebuilding, refurbishment or relocation.

Coun David Bawn

Coun Bawn moved an amendment to try to stop the council spending almost £20million over the next two years on its HQ.

But it was voted down after failing to win the support of the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups.

Coun Bawn said: “Such a provision should not have been in the budget as it is premature for the council to earmark such a colossal sum to a project that has no firm foundation.

“The council has not even carried out a structural survey on the existing building, which is surely a prerequisite before any discussion of rebuilding, refurbishment or relocation.

“Although my amendment was voted down, we did receive a concession for the first time from the leadership that the Policy Board would refer the matter back to full council before a final decision was made.”

Prior to the meeting, the Conservatives set up an inflatable white elephant to show their opposition to relocation, saying it would cost more than £40million. The council’s Labour administration insists it would cost £19million.

During the debate councillors were assured that the budget allocation still allowed for the refurbishment of the existing headquarters as an alternative to a new-build.

Morpeth Kirkhill Liberal Democrat member Andrew Tebbutt said: “The capital provision is for either the move to Ashington, which I am totally against, but also the option for refurbishing County Hall, which I am supportive of.

“I thought it was a very short-sighted and somewhat silly motion put up by the Tories, which would have taken money out of the budget for investment in County Hall.”

Labour Group Leader Grant Davey said: “The proposed move of the civic building will generate significant economic benefits for the whole of Northumberland. We would not be making this investment if it didn’t make sound economic sense.”