Keeping County Hall open is a cost that cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council can ‘ill afford’ – according to the authority’s cabinet member for finance - but opposition members are railing against the sale.
The council announced last Monday that it was looking to sell off the grade I listed building, parts of which date back to the mid-1700s.
But at an annual running cost of £380,000, County Hall is now deemed ‘surplus to requirements’, and cabinet agreed on Tuesday afternoon to pursue a sale of the whole of the site in George Row.
Speaking at the meeting, at One Angel Square, cabinet member for finance Councillor Michael Clarke said: “The primary purpose of this report is to examine how One Angel Square and the County Hall can be used to best maximise revenue and space. It costs £380k to keep that building open, and that’s a cost that the council can ill afford.”
The move was met with opposition by a number of members of the public and councillors at the meeting.
James Ashton, a former county councillor, told the meeting: “I’ve worked as a property consultant for 21 years before I joined the council. If you try to dispose of this you will get little or nothing in return.”
And Liberal Democrat councillor Dennis Meredith added: “If we sell this building off it will be a disgrace to this council. It’s a building of natural history and it’s the job of this council to make sure that the building is preserved.
“My offices are in that building, and I won’t be leaving until the election. I’ll do a sit-in, and if you sell this building I will embarrass you all in a national campaign.”
But Councillor Clarke said the council would be aiming to still have access to the building – which acted as the democratic hub of the council – through the council chamber and data centre.
He added: “After weighing things up, we’re seeking a single buyer, but we would require county council to have access to the council chamber, and also to retain control of the data centre which runs the IT – that would cost millions to relocate. The disposal of the site won’t be easy and poses a number of challenges.”
The county council has already sold its One Angel Square headquarters last month to Canada Life Investments.