COUNTY HALL: An audit is long overdue

The proposed move of Northumberland County Hall from Morpeth to Ashington has been questionable from the outset, with the decision seemingly announced in 2014 before a detailed options appraisal had taken place.

The appointment of external auditors to review the scheme is therefore long overdue.

Valid questions have been ignored or responded to with rhetoric.

If the Labour administration believes that the process has been transparent and open then why was the planned debate at full council in December cancelled? That the council’s website still suggests the issue would be discussed in December sums up the process.

The review needs to establish an accurate cost of refurbishing the existing 35-year-old building, as well as considering potential income generating uses for any surplus space.

The new-build option should include construction costs, plus the cost of finance. If residents through council tax have to fund interest payments on borrowing then they cannot be excluded from a presentation of the figures.

The cost of re-using the County Hall site also needs be factored in.

How will the implausible re-location of four schools and a leisure centre be funded? Is the proposal desirable from a traffic point of view, and what about the spend that will be removed from Morpeth town centre?

Lastly, if the regeneration of Ashington town centre is the political driving force behind this proposal then there are far more effective ways to achieve this than spending anywhere between £30million and £60million to move County Hall.

There is no guarantee that the move to Ashington will directly deliver a single additional permanent job.

Paul Scott