Tory proposals to give County Hall the 'most expensive lick of paint in history' have been branded 'the thin end of the wedge' by Labour group leader Grant Davey. The decision to halt the move to Ashington will be one of a number of issues investigated by the county external auditor EY over the next year as it was revealed that the costs set aside by Cllr Peter Jackson, the leader of the Tory group who also leads the council have started at an 'eye watering' £17m despite Cllr Jackson claiming 'County Hall only needed a lick of paint' in the run up to last May's elections. It also emerged that Tory claims of the cost for the new Ashington hub were 'grossly misleading' and labour are warning the costs to exit the Ashington Portland Park contract could top £10m over the coming years.
The new HQ planned at Ashington was a state of the art building with built in energy saving devices like ground source heat pumps which would cut the cost of the building to £400,000 and now Cllr Jackson has revealed that the cost of the old County Hall will be £3m per year.
Cllr Grant Davey, leader of the Labour group said
"After claiming inflated costs and pie in the sky figures of Labour's new HQ in Ashington, the Tories are having to face up to the truth despite trying to spin their way out of the facts. Now we know it'll cost at least £17m to 'update' County Hall which was branded by independent assessors as 'not value for money', it'll cost at least £9m and rising to get out of the Portland Park contract with the council confirming they do not expect to agree terms on that contract in the foreseeable future and at least £12m over the next 4 years to heat County Hall. Labour's plan to move to Ashington would have been profitable for the council after year 4 and the Tory 'lick of paint' plan will saddle future generations with huge running costs for at least 20 years. The reality is that Tory decisions like this, scrapping Arch and scraping the core strategy have created a £65m black hole in council finances.
The County Hall decision by Cllr Jackson must be the most expensive 'lick of paint' in the history of the county and it'll be residents who pick up the tab with an 8% plus council tax rise in just the next two years".