By Anthony Carroll
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
A bid to stop council workers leaving Lowestoft Town Hall to a £13m shared office by Lake Lothing has been thrown out by councillors tonight in a political first.
For the first time in its history Waveney District Council debated a petition under new procedures after Frank Joyce of the group Lowestoft Coalition Against the Cuts set up one to try and save the town hall.
Mr Joyce’s petition, which attracted 350 names, launched his campaign after Waveney and Suffolk County Council proposed re-locating all their backroom staff into a shared building on Riverside Road.
The move has been approved by both councils, who will each pump in £6.8m into the scheme.
It was revealed tonight the move will see the town hall disposed of in the autumn of 2015 as both councils seek to save £3m over a decade by getting rid of 10 buildings that are not fit for purpose in the 21st century.
Mr Joyce’s petition had asked the council to put the Riverside Office Accommodation Project on hold as he claimed the town hall’s only future should be as a town hall, efficiency benefits are unclear, the town centre will be hit as staff move away from area and there are more pressing priorities Waveney should be concentrating on in a time of austerity.
During debate council leader Colin Law defended his council’s rationale for moving from the town hall to land on Riverside Road which is already owned by Waveney as part of the failed £53m Waveney Campus bid.
Mr Law said: “This project is the only logical choice because of the prohibitive costs we face running, maintaining and repairing old buildings which are now completely unsuited to modern work.”
After the debate the vast majority of councillors voted in favour of a recommendation that the project should not be put on hold and noted the town hall is a unique part of Lowestoft’s heritage and has a viable future other than a town hall and agreed to engage with the local community over its future. After the meeting Mr Joyce, said he was disappointed by the vote and that the project should go to a public consultation. Only five names from five different households are needed for a petition debate.