Council criticised for spending £30,000 on town hall renovation

Lib Dem leader Peter Chegwyn.
Lib Dem leader Peter Chegwyn.

Taxpayers forking out millions in legal costs

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A COUNCIL has been criticised for spending £30,000 renovating an area of its town hall where staff were recently made redundant.

Gosport Borough Council is currently having construction work carried out in the reception area.

It will mean receptionists, telephonists and cashiers in the council’s front office will now work from one shared area.

But it comes just weeks after four of these staff roles were axed in a cost-cutting drive.

The Tory-run authority has now been accused of wasting taxpayers’ cash by rival Lib Dems.

Councillor Peter Chegwyn, leader of the Gosport Lib Dems, said: ‘In the present climate I think most people will regard this as a shocking waste of public money.

‘This money would be better spent protecting jobs and services rather than making alterations.

‘It was badly thought out.’

But Conservative council leader Mark Hook defended the expenditure.

He said the council was taking advantage of the need for ‘important health and safety’ maintenance work to carry out the renovations.

‘The electrics in the reception area needed updating and were due to be done as part of planned maintenance work for the town hall,’ he said.

‘For that reason it was decided to take advantage of the disturbance to relocate the staff to one area.

‘In doing this, it allowed the telephonist, receptionist and cashier staff to be reduced in number by four.

‘All those left are now trained to cover all positions and are therefore able to move from one position to the other to cover at busy times.

‘This means a better service for customers, but with fewer staff, so the savings on salaries far outweigh the £30,000 cost of the alterations, and that is without the year-on-year savings from the reduced number of salaries.’

Cllr Hook said merging the desk where front office staff work has also freed up extra space on the ground floor of the council offices.

The council is now building new interview rooms there for residents of the borough to talk with staff from the housing team.

‘This will allow people to be seen quicker and to be able to discuss their business in a private environment,’ added Cllr Hook.

‘It’s made the area more user-friendly now there is more space.’