£350,000 cost of disused building

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A DISUSED council building which has been empty for the last four years is costing taxpayers in a South Yorkshire town £50,000 a year in business rates, security, utilities and maintenance bills.

Since the last staff left Barnsley Council’s old Central Offices four years ago, some £200,000 has been spent, and the building is not due to be demolished until 2014, meaning a further £150,000 costs will be racked up.

For every year the site remains unoccupied, the council has been forced to pay out between £30,000 and £35,000 each year in business rates, plus a further £21,000 annual bill for security, utilities and maintenance.

Because of the offices’ location, above the town’s markets, they cannot be bulldozed until the markets are moved.

Barnsley Independent councillor Bill Gaunt said there were more council offices which had also become empty and were incurring costs - while the council had moved its staff into a ‘grandiose new building’.

Barnsley Council’s development spokesman, Coun Tim Cheetham, said the costs were ‘not a concern’. He added: “It’s all part of the plan. Obviously, there has been a delay in the markets project, which we did not want, but for a building of its size where it is the costs are not massive.”

Colin Harrop, chairman of the Yorkshire regional board of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, said the situation was being repeated across the country as regeneration schemes are delayed due to the struggling economy. He said: “Now local authorities are going to have to think a lot harder about what they do with these buildings and they have to have a use for them to reduce the costs that are building up.”

In Sheffield, the council has transferred its staff from buildings it rents privately to occupy the massive former government offices at Moorfoot, which the authority has taken on for redevelopment. Since it will take several years to find a company willing to redevelop the site, the council has decided to move in to cut costs.