Newcastle Council splashes out £45m on vanity project in face of dramatic funding cuts

Proposal to expand the scope of the council’s refurbishment plan expected to be approved next Wednesday.

Despite recently closing nine outlying offices, Newcastle Council cabinet members have decided to ramp up the refurbishment plan of the Civic Centre. Council chiefs decided to swap the current five-year plan, which is limited to only an office block, to a full-scale redevelopment of the entire Civic Centre site.

In the face of this expenditure, council chiefs have claimed that the move (which is funded by future taxpayers' cash through council borrowing) would generate £32m of savings over the next 25 years through rental income, efficiency and reduced maintenance costs.

Newcastle Council also hopes that fast-tracking the £45m refurbishment will safeguard the future of the Grade II listed Civic Centre, named best in the North East in February by The Journal, a regional paper.

Councillor Ged Bell, the council cabinet member for investment and development hailed the decision as another example of the council’s innovative ways to save money: “This council has saved £151m over the last five years… making it better equipped to deal with the financial challenges of the next five years and beyond.

Tom Warburton, the council’s director of investment and development, stated, “In the face of increasing cuts to our grant from central Government we have to look for every penny we can save to protect our frontline services.”

Despite neighbouring Durham County Council and Northumberland County Council taking the decision to vacate their current premises, Councillor Bell dismissed this proposal as “unthinkable.”

He claimed that the 1960s concrete office block was an “integral part of the city’s architecture,” and “a modern classic that is part of our heritage.” Councillors hope that splashing out £45m will mean that office space can be rented out, making the centre “into a true ‘civic quarter’ for the city.”

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