Tuesday 11 January 2011

Leak By Council Whistleblower Casts Doubt On Newham Dockside 'Savings'

There is a new twist in the continuing lack of financial transparency surrounding Newham council’s new Docklands headquarters, with news of a leak from a senior council officer to the BBC.

Having spent £111m on Newham Dockside, it emerged in October that the council spent a staggering £18.7m on the cost of the design and décor of its new offices. The local authority claims that by moving staff from 26 other buildings, it will save around £7m per year. However, BBC News has revealed today that the majority of these buildings are either still occupied by council staff or lie empty. They therefore remain a financial burden on local council taxpayers and are almost impossible to sell, due to the parlous state of the property market. The BBC report says that Newham council “has not disputed the accuracy” of the list passed on by its Dockside whistleblower, which includes the following examples:

  • Bridge House - still in use
  • Broadway House - empty
  • Stratford Office Village, several buildings - empty
  • Gable House - empty
  • Forest Gate Housing Office - empty
  • Credon Centre - still in use
  • East Ham Town Hall - still in use
  • Old Town Hall Stratford - still in use
  • Contance Street - still in use
  • Sure Start Offices - still in use
  • Alice Billings House - still in use
  • Cemetery building - still in use by pest control
  • Web Building in Stratford and at the Globe - still in use
  • 5 Beckton Road - still in use
  • Greenhill Centre - still in use
  • Rawalpindi House - still in use
  • Greengate Lodge - still in use
It looks as though even more of the buildings listed as ‘still in use’ may become empty from April as the council seeks to make 1600 of its staff redundant, as part of plans for a drastic 25% budget cut over four years.

So will the move to Newham Dockside have really saved £12m by March or is this a fantasy figure that takes no account of the continuing cost of maintaining the council’s large portfolio of properties? It’s the kind of reasonable question that local people may feel they deserve an answer to. Unfortunately, the chances of getting one from the borough are close to zero - an external and independent inquiry into the purchase of Newham's costly new HQ may be the only way of ever finding out the truth.

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