Falkirk Council votes against new £23m HQ and town hall
Falkirk Council has all but scrapped plans for a new headquarters after councillors agreed to step back from a proposed £23 million spend on the project and a new town hall.
A meeting of the full council on Wednesday agreed by one vote to continue one project and not proceed with the other, however, the SNP claimed the entire scheme has now been “kicked into the long grass” and will not be back on the agenda until after the local government elections next May.
It has been estimated that plans to replace the Municipal Buildings have so far cost the taxpayer £560,000 in professional fees, while cancelling it completely would add at least another £470,000 to the bill.
Had it been supported, Robertson Construction could have started on the replacement HQ at West Bridge Street, which alone cost around £18m, in the Autumn. Instead the Labour-led administration voted 16-15 to put it on hold.
Craig Martin, leader of the Labour-led localauthority, blamed the threat of an estimated £20m cut in funding by the Scottish Government in 2017 as one reason for the decision.
The council also abandoned a £7m proposal to relocate the town hall to the new £80m Forth Valley College Campus.
A new investigation into potentially siting an arts and civic centre in down town Falkirk will be taken forward.
Cllr Martin told the Falkirk Herald: “Two years ago asset rationalisation was a good idea given that no money to pay for it would have to come from any other council service.
“But times have changed. With the funding gap in the next financial year estimated at £20 million, and taking into consideration the statement from the First Minister there will be a review of local government, it would be inappropriate to build a new council headquarters if there is not going to be a council here. These things are game changers and the people of Falkirk district should know that.”
The SNP’s David Alexander said: “Due diligence has not been carried out while £1m was spent before there was any public consultation. It’s all been smoke and mirrors and it hurts me to say there has to be a change in this administration. We all know this will not come back before this council before the election next year.”
SNP group leader Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn added: “The full list of options for the headquarters have not been investigated and having been starved of investment for many years, the town hall can be upgraded above the specification of the proposed new facility at less cost.”