Fringe Box



£265,000 Revamp for Council Facilities Gets The Green Light

Published on: 6 Oct, 2013
Updated on: 6 Oct, 2013
GBC Council Chamber Millmead

The mayor’s chair at the Guildford Borough Council chamber at Millmead.

Guildford Borough Council’s Executive has decided to allocate £265,000 to refurbish and improve the civic suite at Millmead.

The project, which represents the first major investment in the facility since it was built 30 years ago, was deemed necessary because, as stated in a report: “The existing accommodation is in poor condition and lacks flexibility, restricting the effective provision of the council’s democratic functions.”

Frequently in council meetings, attended by the public, complaints have been voiced that speakers cannot be heard.
Improved disabled access is also part of the plan to bring it up to modern standards.

Cllr Matt Furniss, lead councillor for the environment

Cllr Matt Furniss, lead councillor for the environment.

Lead councillor for environment, Cllr Matt Furniss (Con, Christchurch), said: “One of our key strategic priorities is to provide efficient, cost effective and quality public services. Updating our civic suite will make it a professional, modern business environment with good quality, accessible meeting spaces that support the democratic process and delivery of our services.”

The planned changes, which follow on from heating and ventilation improvements, according to the report include:

  • additional good quality meeting spaces with better facilities
  • improvements to disabled access and facilities, including a lift
  • making existing meeting areas more flexible and adaptable
  • upgraded IT and audiovisual equipment,  to allow better use of modern technology
  • improved facilities for councillors.
The view of the chamber from the chair.

The view of the chamber from the chair.

Cllr Furniss continued: “Our civic suite was built in 1983 and although it has served us well, it is now very much in need of refurbishment to provide more modern, flexible and accessible facilities.”

Cllr Angela Gunning voiced the only concerns about the planned expenditure

Cllr Angela Gunning voiced the only concerns about the planned expenditure.

Only one dissenting voice was raised during the debate. Cllr Angela Gunning (Lab, Stoke) said: “I am just staggered by the amount of money this is going to cost.

“We have just been talking about people in difficulties with rent arrears etc and here we are talking about spending a quarter of a million… I just wonder whether that should be a top priority?”

Council Leader Stephen Mansbridge (Con, Ash South & Tongham) responded “At the moment this place is not fit for democracy… In terms of the cost, if you divide the estimated cost by the thirty years [since the chamber was built] it gives an annual cost of just over £8,000. If we allocate the spend over the next 30 years and ask, “Is that worth it?” I certainly think it is.

“We have made the decision to operate from these buildings for, at least, the next ten years… I don’t think it is right to expect councillors to carry out their role of representing people democratically in sub-standard accommodation.”

Cllr Anne Meredith suggested that the council’s own access group be used to confirm the suitability of the improved disabled access. She said: “After all their knowledge in this subject is far superior to ours.”

The scheme is being funded though the council’s capital programme. It is part of a wider project to improve the council offices, including a new reception area and the webcasting of some council meetings.

The decision to allocate the necessary funding was agreed by the Executive unanimously.

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Responses to £265,000 Revamp for Council Facilities Gets The Green Light

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    October 7, 2013 at 7:32 am

    I am sure that many will share Cllr Gunning’s concern over what is not a priority in these days when we are told it is a time of austerity.

    A time when many hard pressed families are forced to make ends by applying for these controversial “pay day loans”.

    We are told by this coalition government that we are all in it together.

    It appears that this is not the case.

  2. Ray Springer Reply

    October 8, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    I agree with Bernard Parke. The council are very good at spending our money.

  3. Brian Miller Reply

    October 11, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    And in today’s Surrey Advertiser, the Chief Executive is getting a six-figure ‘pay-off’. I cann’t wait to see next year’s official accounts stating how this and the refurbishment of the council offices will be ‘dressed-up’ as efficiency savings!

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