Councillors fight back against £44million HQ relocation plan

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Labour councillors are calling for an urgent rethink over a £44 million spend on new housing and council headquarters in favour of more suitable alternatives.

Warwick District Council executive agreed early plans to sell its Milverton Hill HQ and redevelop the site for homes.

Riverside House and the car park could be refurbished and prolonged for 10 to 20 years for less than a third of the loan required just to rebuild the car park

John Barrott

Replacement offices, 40 flats and a 650-space car park would also be built at the Russell Street Covent Garden site.

But Labour accused the Conservative group of “sticking their heads in the sand” over alternative options and pushing plans through without thought for spending.

Despite welcoming new homes, Labour leader, Cllr John Barrott said: “We could put this money into more affordable housing, this does not meet our 40 per cent affordable housing criteria. Are we wise to make a decision on a HQ when the council’s future is so up in the air?

“There is no question that the council needs to be smarter with its assets to save money.

“However, it also has a duty to minimise risk, maximise revenues and prioritise residents’ needs, such as for affordable housing.

“Riverside House and the car park could be refurbished and prolonged for 10 to 20 years for less than a third of the loan required just to rebuild the car park.”

The group proposes affordable and student housing on half of the Riverside House site, the surface car park in Covent Garden and on Chandos Street. And for £2m to be spent repairing the multi-storey and a further £1m to keep council offices in use for 15 more years.

But council leader Andrew Mobbs said that he was “proud” to be sticking his head in the sand over the proposals for the good of the district taxpayers.

He said he was “delighted” that the proposals were supported, including by Liberal Democrat members, and assured plans would meet affordable housing numbers.

He said: “This option presents the best value for money and is the preferred way forward to save the tax payer £300,000 each year, not just on repairs, but on upkeep.

“It will bring major regeneration to the town and a much needed and modern upgrade to the multi-storey.”

Cllr Peter Whiting (Con) told members: “The car park is falling down and we need to do something about it.

“This plan has been ongoing for some time and parking is something we need to address.”

If approved by members at a later date, plans would see the authority selling Riverside House in Milverton Hill for the land to be developed for more than 100 houses and flats to be built there.

It will then build replacement offices, around 40 flats and a 650-space car park on the site of the Covent Garden site in Russell Street in hope of saving up to £300,000 in running costs each year.

Riverside House, which is home to 340 members of staff, costs the council £600,000 to run, with an estimated repairs bill of £1 million over the next five years.