£100K cost of closed offices

HIGH Peak Borough Council’s former offices in Chinley have cost the authority more than £100,000 since being closed on cost-cutting grounds in 2010.

The decision to shut the Chinley offices was made by the authority after councillors heard that the annual cost of running sites in Buxton, Chinley and Glossop was more than £340,000.

However, since being closed in September 2010, the authority has spent £109,406.65 on their former headquarters, it was revealed this week.

Chapel-en-le-Frith resident Edmund Bradbury, who began his local government career at the Chinley offices in the 1950s, obtained the figures using the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr Bradbury, who has long campaigned for the council to re-consider its decision to sell the building, discovered that, up until March 22, the council had spent £62,441 on security; £1,315 on a new barrier at the entrance; £3,710 on insurance; £8,844 on heating/lighting and £6,253 on maintenance.

A further £4,563 had been spent on hiring accommodation for council meetings with an additional £22,280.65 spent on a public address system for use at the venues now used for many meetings.

Mr Bradbury said he appreciated that some of the expenditure would have been incurred in any case, even if the premises had been used on a ‘vacant possession on completion’ basis.

“However, the security bill would have no doubt been considerably less, there would have been no payments for the use of alternative accommodation for meetings and it would certainly not have been necessary for expenditure of £22,280.65 on a new public address system as the acoustics in the council chamber at the former headquarters were excellent,” he added.

Mr Bradbury, who said the figures do not take into account any possible additional expenditure for members and officers travelling to meetings at the various venues across the borough, believes the money could have been better spent on financing projects for the benefit of High Peak residents as well as the delivery of vital public services.

High Peak Borough Council Leader Caitlin Bisknell said: “We have received a number of offers for the Chinley site, and negotiations are underway with an interested party.

“No further statement will be made until those negotiations have been completed with the interested party.

“As we have said many times before, the decision to sell the Chinley site was taken in 2010 after a strategic asset review found that the annual cost of running three sites was more than £340,000, on top of which the council was facing a maintenance backlog bill of £1.2 million.

“In addition, a Citizens’ Panel survey revealed that customers considered the Chinley site to be in a poor location with inadequate reception facilities and public transport. In contrast, the panel rated the Buxton and Glossop locations highly.”

Mr Bradbury added that if none of the bids received were suitable to the council, serious consideration should be given to the future of the building - and in particular the ongoing costs which are being incurred while the premises remain empty.

The figures were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act several weeks ago but were only released this week because Mr Bradbury was required to request the necessary permission to disclose them under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005.

The council did not respond to Mr Bradbury’s request for nearly seven weeks, leading to Buxton Advertiser Editor John Phillips accusing the authority of displaying an “Orwellian attitude” in the way it dealt with information requests from the public and press.

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