Tyne & Wear

Northumberland's new £40m HQ a 'palace' for councillors

County Hall, Morpeth Image copyright Northumberland County Council
Image caption About 1,000 people work in the current building, which was built in 1981

A plan to move Northumberland County Hall is a "waste" of £40m to build a "palace" for councillors, a councillor has said.

Northumberland County Council has approved plans to close and sell off its headquarters in Morpeth and relocate to a smaller HQ at Ashington.

It says that the new building will cost less than refurbishing the current one.

Labour council leader Grant Davey rejected Tory Peter Jackson's "palace" claim.

The council said it needed to save £58m over the next four years and relocating would save more than £13m.

The "more cost-effective" HQ is part of a plan to rejuvenate Ashington town centre, the council said.

Mr Jackson said: "We just don't believe what we are being told, the people of Northumberland don't believe what they are being told and no one thinks there's any sense whatsoever in wasting £40m on a palace for councillors in the middle of Ashington."

Image copyright Northumberland County Council
Image caption The new council headquarters would be built in Ashington

Mr Davey said: "A new building would be a far better place for our staff to work in.

"The design we would like to have built has a very simple council chamber that will also double up as a local cinema, because of the layout, and will probably have a stage where other events can be put on. So it's about a utility building and not a building that will be a palace for anyone."

About 1,000 people work in the current building, which was built in 1981.

To save £11.9m from its 2016/2017 budget, councillors also agreed a 1.99% rise in council tax.

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