Union: office move could be mismanagement

PUBLISHED: 08:01 08 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:32 25 May 2010

COUNCIL chiefs stand on the brink of financial mismanagement in their rush to take hundreds of jobs away from Weston, union leaders have warned.

COUNCIL chiefs stand on the brink of financial mismanagement in their rush to take hundreds of jobs away from Weston, union leaders have warned.

Failing to investigate other options would also show North Somerset Council has a 'complete disregard' for the town and prove the move to Clevedon is politically motivated, Unison says.

Branch secretary Helen Thornton said the unitary authority needs to look at the offers published in last week's Mercury before going ahead with the multi-million pound purchase of the former Clerical Medical buildings.

Ms Thornton said: "Both Kerry Michael and Hartnell Taylor Cook have offered to build offices to the council's specifications in either central Weston or Weston Gateway, and at a cheaper price.

"The council really need to investigate these possibilities and compare all the options for cost and quality before making a final decision."

She added that Weston's unemployment problems are worse than Clevedon's and would be increased by moving staff away from the town.

As part of the plan, the council will close buildings in Weston that accommodate 762 workers.

But council chiefs this week denied there will be a 'wholesale' move of workers from Weston.

However, the companies behind the Weston Gateway project, Summerfield Developments and Abbey Manor Capital Partners, wrote to council leader Nigel Ashton to express their 'dismay' at the council's assertion that there were no appropriate sites in the town.

The cutting criticism came the same day that the unitary authority's crunch meeting to discuss the issue was cancelled due to snow.

But with the district unaffected by snow until late at night one Liberal Democrat accused leader Nigel Ashton of ducking the debate.

Cllr Edward Keating said: "I would not be surprised if they are running scared, because I cannot recall any council meeting being cancelled due to the weather."

On Monday night Conservatives on Weston Town Council voted to urge their district counterparts to delay the purchase.

However, a group of eight councillors who sit on both authorities abstained on the vote.

One of them, Cllr Ian Porter, even claimed his prime responsibility was to secure jobs in North Somerset.

He said: "It's about jobs in general across North Somerset, not just jobs in Weston."

An emergency meeting of Weston Conservatives has been called for the end of this week, so those who sit on both authorities can brief town cllrs on the latest information.

It is thought the council's executive has lowered the amount it expects to spend on the move from £16million to £14.6million, but that figure is not thought to include VAT and stamp duty.

Council chiefs expect the relocation scheme, which will now be discussed on January 14, to provide annual savings of £64,000 over a 25-year period, which equates to approximately 0.05 per cent of its budget.

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