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Croydon Council to press ahead with £3million furniture spend for new HQ

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THE council will press ahead with spending more than £3 million on moving to its new headquarters and buying new furniture.

Labour councillors failed to convince the authority to think again about making do with old furniture at a time of biting austerity.

The Tory-controlled council is due to move from Taberner House to the new Bernard Weatherill House, next door, late this year.

Councillors voted last month that it was best in the long run to spend more than £3.14m on a six-week move, including buying the new tables and chairs.

A report to cabinet claimed the other option was bad value for money at £2.12 million, taking 18 weeks and moving old furniture that would soon need to be replaced.

Labour councillors called the decision in for review. Scrutiny and strategic overview committee vice-chairman Cllr Sean Fitzsimons said the spending jarred at a time of savage cuts.

He told the committee on Tuesday: "At this moment in time should we be spending all this money? And could we just defer some of that expenditure to a later date and use some of that borrowing capacity to provide services to residents, rather than putting the needs of the organisation first rather than the people?"

But acting council chief executive Nathan Elvery argued that moving furniture risked disrupting the council's services, saying: "This is a conversation about service risk, not a conversation about furniture."

He added he did not want to "compromise" the benefits of the modern work environment in the new HQ, aimed at boosting council workers' productivity.

He said: "It is undebated that if you put them in a different environment they will think differently, and I would not want to compromise that environment by putting them in a state-of-the-art building and then putting their old desk in front of them and saying 'get on with it like you did in Taberner House'."

Mr Elvery said the 18-week time frame for the discarded option was because moving could only be done at weekends to lessen disruption, but that time frame was challenged.

Councillor Fitzsimons said: "You have a history of reports which take the worst case scenario [...] Frankly, you are taking us for fools that we are going to believe that it will take 18 weeks."

Speaking after the meeting, half of which was held in private as it dealt with confidential information, Cllr Fitzsimons said he felt officers had been "open and honest".

He added: "The argument is if we are cutting funding to social services – we have less social services but nicer chairs, so they have fewer workers but they have nicer chairs.

"I am sure officers will enjoy their new chairs but whether the voting public will think it is right."

The Tory-majority scrutiny committee voted against a motion to review the decision to buy new furniture.

The meeting heard the fate of the discarded furniture has yet to be finalised.

Croydon Council to press ahead with £3million furniture spend for new HQ


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