£10m bill to fit out new council office

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A SOUTH Yorkshire council which is making £30 million of budget cuts this year has approved plans to spend £10m fitting out its new headquarters.

Rotherham Council is to spend the money equipping £30m Riverside House on the edge of the town centre - but the bill has been slammed as ‘colossal and excessive’ by opposition Conservative councillors.

Leeds developers Evans Property Group have almost completed the building and will charge the council £3m a year rent over the next 35 years.

But the deal did not include furnishings or carpets, wiring, plumbing or computers - leaving the council to pick up the bill.

Coun John Turner, one of seven Tories on the Labour-run council, said: “It seems unbelievable the council could be left to spend this amount of money on fit-out when a deal has already been struck to pay £3m a year to rent for the next 35 years.

“Nobody is arguing Rotherham town centre needs a lift, and the building looks excellent, but when we are cutting local services this spending is shocking.

“The council is making people redundant but spending colossal amounts on fixtures and fittings.”

Coun Roger Stone, who leads the authority, and his development spokesman Gerald Smith, have both defended the spending and the council said the project was ‘value for money’.

A spokesman said the £9.9m furnishings bill would not just be spent on ‘carpets and curtains’ but on several major projects.

The cash will be used to kit out a new library for Rotherham, which will be included in the building as well as a customer service centre, cafe computer cabling, air conditioning modifications and security.

The spokesman said: “Riverside House is 40 per cent smaller than the estate we are moving out of. There are only 58 desks for every 100 staff members, to save space and money. Riverside House is cheaper than staying where we are and doing the necessary refurbishments, and includes flood protection to a metre above 2007 flood levels.”