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Cumbrians foot £100k bill for council’s empty offices

[C]umbria’s Liberal Democrat and Labour County Council has spent more than £100,000 maintaining its former headquarters in Carlisle after moving to a new £10.5 million office complex 350 yards away.

The information, revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request, covers the costs incurred over the two years since the council left its offices at The Courts in the city.

Councillor James Airey, leader of the Conservative group on Cumbria County Council, said: “It is wrong that old headquarters have been left empty for almost two years with council taxpayers left to pick up the bill.

“To put it in perspective, £100,000 would pay for 2,000 extra pothole repairs.

“Our Liberal Democrat and Labour council need to follow through quickly on their commitment to find a sustainable solution for their former offices. Every day that this doesn’t happen, the bill for Cumbrians is going up.”

A spokesperson for Cumbria County Council said: “The council is committed to protecting this important historic grade one listed building and sadly we all know what can happen when our architectural heritage isn’t protected,  for example the Central Plaza Hotel in Carlisle. Not only do they become unsafe and a risk to the public, but this can also means increased costs for repair,  rather than maintenance. It is also a much harder challenge to secure a safe and suitable future for buildings like this,  if they are in poor repair.

“The cost of maintaining this historic building was always  part of the business case for Cumbria House which saw the council reduce its office accommodation from 22 to 2 in Carlisle alone, saving around a million a year after the cost of the new building is taken account, representing an excellent investment for the taxpayer. Other benefits of our approach saw a major reduction in maintenance backlog by several million and the investment helped to regenerate Botchergate,  as well as reduce the council’s carbon footprint. The building is also still being used by local community groups such as a local Foodbank,  which we are more than happy to support.

“We are sure that when considering all of this, it would be hard to disagree with this solid and robust business case and in  our approach to protecting this valuable city centre icon.

“Finally we are working hard with a number of organisations to explore future uses for the courts and as soon as we can share any of these proposals we will be happy to do so. The council, like the public,  want to see this building protected now and in the future.”

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Cumbria County Council was asked to provide the costs incurred to-date for maintenance, security and associated expenditure in relation to the Citadel complex (The Courts) in Carlisle following the relocation of council staff to Cumbria House, 117 Botchergate, Carlisle.

Reply:

Maintenance                             £14,872

Statutory Serving                     £15,120

Security                                        £1,119

Electricity                                     £15,547

Gas                                                £12,154

Water                                           £5,007

Business Rates                          £36,742

TOTAL                                           £100,561

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