CROYDON Council is to spend £3.1 million on a whole new set of furniture - rather than £2.1 million on moving old pieces into its new Bernard Weatherill House (BWH) this summer.
At a corporate services committee meeting last week, the report set out by the Conservative administration argued that the cost of moving existing furniture over 18 weeks – dismantling and re-assembling pieces, running both the Taberner and BWH buildings and replacing 25 per cent of the unusable furniture – was not good value for money at £2,123,000.
Instead, it proposed buying a whole new set of equipment for £3,143,000 over a six-week move.
All six Conservative councillors voted for the plan, whereas the five Labour councillors voted against.
Tim Pollard, a Conservative on the committee, said the decision would save money in the long term.
He added: "The way the council will be run in the new building will be very different. In Taberner, around a third of the desks are unused at any one time because officers are out in the field.
"This is expensive to maintain. In BWH, not every person will get their own desk – officers will share facilities to save space and money."
Sara Bashford, the Conservative member who led the report, said: "I know how this looks when the economy is so bad and cuts are being made but a lot of work went into this and it is the most efficient proposal.
"None of the old furniture will fit in with the new floor plan for BWH and it is due for replacement in the next five years anyway.
"We will even be getting income from it when partner organisations pay us to use the facilities.
"That's just what new furniture costs – it's expensive."
George Ayres, a Labour member who voted against the plans, said: "This is a totally inappropriate use of taxpayers' money in this era of deprivation and cuts. I cannot understand why they would choose this option and spend over £3 million on furniture.
"That morning, I had been at a meeting about the problems facing mental health treatment because of cuts. Going to the committee was like entering a parallel universe – I might have understood in richer days, but these are not rich days."
The report states that the old furniture and stationery will be offered to schools, charities and community groups.