No sense in deal

Re “Risks outlined in Town Hall move”.

What is the question today, well the question is, should we sell off our historic and beautiful Town Hall and buy a former building society on the industrial park, or shall we not, that is the question. Well, for me at least, it is a no-brainer, we should keep the existing Town Hall. However, I do not say this out of any sentimental attachment to the present building, although you have to admit it is a pretty impressive looking pile. No, my rejection of the proposal is arrived at by using hard financial logic. Looking at the deal being put to us by the council I can find no sound financial reason for the move whatsoever.

The council’s “Alice in Wonderland” financial case is that we sell a huge amount of very valuable land and property, which they hold in trust for the people of the Borough of Scarborough, to a government body, the Homes and Community Agency, who nobody has ever heard of, for a pittance, and with this money they buy the equivalent of a cheap and chatty new house next to an industrial estate. They then buy back, at a ridiculous price, a share in the land and property we previously owned outright. If that’s sound financial management I am a “Dutch Girl”.

Anyway leaving aside the “economics of the mad house”, and the fact that my mother tells me she does not know any Dutch men, and looking at the actual behind-the-scenes costs as projected by the council, then the financial case gets even worse. Making the transfer from the town to the trading estate will cost at least £2.5 million of our money taken, as might be expected, out of our reserves. There are staff relocation costs, removal costs, rebuilding costs, costs incurred through running for a time two Town Halls and of course, as the £2.5 million is being taken out of our reserves, loss of interest. Moreover, if the council quote £2.5 million then we can safely double this figure to get to the real cost.

But it gets even worse. The ongoing cost of running a futuristic building such as the former Scarborough Building Society headquarters will be ruinous. As it stands, although you would think the new building would be energy efficient it is not. It, in fact, costs nearly three times what our old Town Hall costs to run. This is because it was built by a building society with unlimited funds and so it has a very sophisticated air con and central heating system which costs a fortune to run.

This also applies to the windows and roof. As anyone can see the double glazed units are not off-the-shelf units but specially made, some curved, purpose-built, units. These are now, of course, 10 years old and, in another 15 years, by our officers’ own admission, will almost certainly need replacing. The cost of replacing these units could run into millions of pounds on its own. However, the real expense will come in repairing the tin roof. Although the building is only 10 years old the roof already leaks like a sieve.

Nor does the financial loss only apply to us the ratepayers if the Town Hall relocates. Scarborough’s business economy will also suffer when 350 town centre jobs, and the hundreds of callers at the Town Hall, disappear out to the trading estate. The loss of the buying power of the Town Hall staff, as highlighted by the Chamber of Trade, South Bay Traders and many other business owners, might start an exodus of shops from the high street which once started will be almost impossible to stop.

Therefore, from which ever way you look at it, this deal simply does not stack up. Indeed the only stack I foresee is the stack of money the developers will make from the flats and pubs they will inevitably build if this deal does go ahead. Then not only will our Queen Victoria not be very amused but I suspect most of us will feel the same, with the exception, of course, of the usual suspects in the Town Hall who, for some bizarre reason, support this madness.

Cllr Roxanne Murphy

Independent member for

Seamer, Irton & Crossgates Ward

Town Hall