Big bill for Sheffield revamp project

burngreaveram'Sorby House Spital Hill Reopening
burngreaveram'Sorby House Spital Hill Reopening
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SHEFFIELD Council could face an unexpected bill of almost £300,000 this financial year due to the ongoing cost of keeping open poorly-used facilities created under the Burngreave New Deal for Communities project.

The council has taken on the running of Sorby House, Vestry Hall and Forum House, because if they were closed and sold, the authority would have to repay millions spent upgrading the buildings to the Government.

The most expensive of the three, Sorby House, formerly drab DSS offices, was revamped to a high spec costing £4.5 million.

But none of the buildings are generating enough income from tenants to cover running costs.

Sheffield Council’s budget monitoring report states: “Burngreave New Deal Project has a forecast overspend of £292,000.”

The council is looking to transfer public services from around Burngreave to the buildings to reduce the figure after failing to find enough private tenants.

It was forced to take over running of the three buildings after the New Deal initiative - a flagship policy of the last Labour government - came to an end in 2011 and market experts said the buildings could fetch a fraction of the amount spent on them if closed and sold.

The Star was told the market value of Sorby House was just over £1 million - and had it been put on the market, the Government would have demanded the return of all £4.5m revamp costs.

Christine Steers, of Friends of Burngreave Cemetery, who was involved with the New Deal and attended its meetings, said: “I’m disappointed but not surprised that things have got to this state.

“There were a lot of good things achieved by New Deal but there was also quite a lot of bureaucracy”

Sheffield chartered surveyor Nick Riddle said: “There’s nothing the council can do about the current situation. There is a lot of empty office space in the city centre which has better transport links.”

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Lib Dem opposition leader on the Council, said: “Front line services could now be affected because of the decisions taken a few years ago to create these buildings.”

Sheffield Council cabinet member for finance Coun Bryan Lodge said: “The forecast overspend includes £90,000 of business rates which are now payable because of the building being taken over by the council rather than run under charitable status.”