Opposition Leader Richard Thomson Comments on Council HQ Decision

>> 2 May 2018

Commenting on the decision taken at last week’s full Aberdeenshire Council to abort plans to develop a new Council HQ in Inverurie, Opposition Leader and SNP Group Leader Cllr Richard Thomson (Ellon & District) said:

“This was a very poor outcome for Aberdeenshire, which has seen a golden opportunity to decentralise and prepare for the future squandered due to the internal political wrangling of the Tory-led council administration.

“The proposal to stay put in Aberdeen is not only crushingly unimaginative, it is one which councillors took knowing full well that even if a deal can be concluded with NHS Grampian, a six-figure financial black hole still remains for the council if it is unable to rent the remaining empty space in Woodhill House.

“The impact is one which will be felt all across the council area. In particular, instead of seeing an increase of 300 jobs in the town, Inverurie will now see 150 jobs lost. It will also leave Ellon with just 163 jobs instead of the 345 jobs that it would have gained on the site of the old Academy from a move out of Aberdeen.

“There have been various ambitions expressed in Ellon for the future use of that site. New council offices really were the only game in town in terms of freeing up existing council properties around the town and driving up footfall and consumer spend in the town centre. Now, that potential benefit from that has been cut significantly.

“However, the real kicker is that the issue that led to this work being undertaken in the first place – the council having too much expensive to run office space in the wrong locations – still applies and remains blissfully untroubled by this outcome.

“It demands a special kind of political incompetence to take a proposal designed to decentralise and save money and to turn it into one which consolidates in Aberdeen and risks costing money. I have to take my hat off to Cllr Gifford and the administration he leads, because in their desperate pursuit of a position that they could all unite behind, that’s exactly what they have achieved.”

Note: The Tory/Lib Dem/Alligned independent administration also voted down an amendment from the opposition SNP/Labour Group which would have allowed council officers to prepare a business case to develop Inverurie Town Hall alongside a smaller HQ development at Harlaw, which councillors on the Office Space Strategy Working Group could have considered in a few weeks time.

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