Council revamp cost increases

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A REFURBISHMENT of Havant's council chamber will cost an extra £416,000.

The council was initially planning for a less costly refurbishment of the chamber in Civic Centre Road.

But after plans for a state-of-the-art cultural conference centre fell through because of the economic climate, councillors have decided upon a larger scale revamp of the space.

The chamber will be transformed into an open-plan room, suitable for conferences, weddings and cultural events, as well as meetings.

As reported in The News, the council offices are currently undergoing a 13m revamp.

Costs have also gone up after a deteriorating ventilation unit was found on the roof.

The ventilator has a refridgerant that will be illegal in 2015, so needed to be replaced.

Together with the council chamber refurbishment, the bill has increased from 255,000 to 671,000.

However, this extra cash is not part of the 13m budget and is being funded through council coffers.

But Havant's Lib Dem leader Ann Buckley was angry as cabinet members approved the additional costs without it first being scrutinised by councillors.

Councillor Buckley said: 'Really before you enter into a process with a lot of expenditure, there should be a detailed debate, that's what the scrutiny committees are there for.'

Councillor David Guest, Havant's deputy leader, said: ''The 671,000 is being paid for through existing funding. We have the money for it. There will be no further demand on taxpayers at all.'

Responding to criticism over scrutiny of the cash, Cllr Guest said: 'We are building something for the future. It will be of great benefit to the borough for the future.

'Had we taken a lengthy process to make decisions, we could have disrupted the contractor.'

He added that if the council waited to replace the ventilator unit it would cost more money in another few years.

The new civic hub, called the Public Service Village, will be open by September next year.

The cost is being met by a 5m government grant, as well as funding from Hampshire County Council and Havant Borough Council.