Notts: Political row over plans to refurbish council chamber

A political row has broken out at County Hall over plans to refurbish its council chamber at a cost of more than half a million pounds.
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The Labour administration has moved to defend accusations from political rivals that it is wasting public money after it was revealed that works totalling more than £500,000 are being carried out in the debating chamber.

Council leader Alan Rhodes says that the work was initially approved by the council in 2010 - then run by the Conservatives - and comprised of an allocation of £319,000 to carry out essential maintenance and updating work.

This included new air conditioning, a new fire alarm system, new wiring, new lighting and new ceilings.

Investigations found that the work would also require the removal of a substantial amount of asbestos, bringing the total budgeted cost to £409,000.

Coun Rhodes said: “The work approved in 2010 is currently underway and the chamber is closed.”

“This has provided an opportunity for additional work to make the chamber more accessible for councillors and employees with disabilities.”

The additional work - at a cost of £138,000 - includes levelling the floor of the council chamber where there are three tiers and steps and removing a stud wall to enlarge the chamber to allow wheelchair access.”

“We anticipate the improvements will allow more flexible use of the space, as well as allowing disabled access, leading to much greater use of the facility not only for council business, but by other local organisations.”

“We believe in equality and treating disabled people fairly and we believe that the home of democracy in Nottinghamshire should be accessible to all.”

However councillors of other political persuasions have all hit out at the spending.”

Independent councillor for Selston, Gail Turner, said it was ‘utterly disgraceful’ to be spending money on the chamber while cuts are being made to other services.

“When we are closing children’s centres, care facilities and other services are being pulled back, this is an outrageous waste of money,” she said.

Sutton councillor Jason Zadrozny said he was calling for the council to reverse the decision which he said looked like politicians ‘feathering their own nest.’

“At a time when the council are making swingeing cuts to services - including those affecting the most vulnerable - sprucing up the council chamber at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds is plain barmy.”

“It just goes to show the Labour administration is completely out of touch with public opinion.”