Critics Slam Newham Council Office Fiasco

Posted on 24 September, 2013 by Neil Bird

Newham Council is considering quitting its lavish office building only three years after moving in. The local authority spent £92m on the building, followed by over £18 million on a refurbishment, in 2010. Now council chiefs say they may move because they can’t sell the properties they vacated.

The move to the dockside headquarters, Building 1000, was hailed as a cost cutting exercise at the time, as staff had previously been based in 26 separate locations. However the money spent on the move rapidly led to controversy after the BBC revealed that bosses had spent £10,000 on five designer light fittings.

This provoked, the then, local government minister Bob Neill to brand the move as ‘scandalous’ and a ‘monumental waste.’

“How one of the poorest boroughs in the country managed to spend £111 million on their offices is beyond my comprehension,” he said.

Now a council spokeswoman has confirmed that, as part of a review of its services in light of government cuts, there is a genuine prospect that they may leave Building 1000 if they can find a tenant willing to rent the entire space. She added that there are no plans to sell the property at the present time.

Speaking anonymously to the BBC, a councillor said; “We can’t sell the old buildings – we have got empty premises we can’t sell. So we are paying for buildings but not using them.

“If someone wanted to move into all of Building 1000 and paid the going rate we would consider going back.

“Meetings are going on but they are at the officer stage – they are looking into it.”

The situation has been described as a ‘massive bungle’ and a ‘total fiasco’ by a former councillor, while current local government minister Brandon Lewis echoes Bob Neill in questioning whether Newham residents are getting value for money.

While the council insists the move is not yet certain, the BBC claims to have learned that the housing benefit service is already scheduled to move out of Building 1000 and return to its former site where new offices will be built.

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