Refurbishment work costing £2.8million has started on West Sussex County Council’s offices in Chichester - as part of the council’s budget-slashing plans.
The spruce-up work being carried out by construction and infrastructure company, Morgan Sindall, involves the complete overhaul of the interior and exterior of the existing early 1960s building, The Grange on Tower Street.
WSCC says it will save £1.9million a year, but Liberal Democrat group deputy leader in the council James Walsh said it was a waste of money when vital services had been cut.
The development will involve walls on three floors in the four storey building being ripped out to provide open-plan office space and will also include the installation of a new roof covering and a complete external refurbishment of the building. It will see around 30 people working on site, 90 per cent of whom will be subcontractors from the local area.
Dr Walsh said: “I am shocked that this sum of money can be found for office refurbishment when frontline services to the elderly and young are being cut so savagely. Moving office partitions is not a high priority.”
He added that this was a decision made without involvement of all council members.
“It has not been subject to any debate or discussion. It seems to be a decision taken solely by a cabinet member.
“We will be asking questions about this at the full council meeting on October 19.”
WSCC maintains it will save money in the long term, but Dr Walsh said: “It’s a great spin, but you can still make savings without knocking walls down and making offices open plan.”
A WSCC spokesman said: “The Grange project is an important part of the council’s office accommodation strategy which will bring about budget savings of £1.9m annually. The council is moving out of 43 offices to operate from main hubs based at Chichester, Horsham, Crawley, Worthing and Bognor Regis.
“The Grange refurbishment will allow us to maximise the space available as well as improving working conditions for our staff. The building dates from the early 1960s and this essential work will also give us the opportunity to make it much more energy efficient.
“The contribution the accommodation strategy is making towards the council’s budget savings plan is important because it helps protect frontline services. It is very much a case of investing to save.”