Newham Council 'may quit £111m office'

Newham Council offices Critics said the £18.7m refurbishment left Building 1000 resembling a "West End nightclub"

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A council that spent more than £111m on a new headquarters is considering moving out after just three years.

Newham Council bought Building 1000 for £92m in 2010 and spent a further £18.7m on a refurbishment. Designer light fittings alone cost £1,800 each.

Now the BBC has been told the council is unable to sell the old buildings it vacated and is considering moving back.

The council says it "might" rent out the entire building but has no plans to sell it.

A spokeswoman said: "Newham Council moved from 26 different locations to Newham Dockside.

Start Quote

Residents will rightly be asking difficult questions of the council”

End Quote Brandon Lewis Local government minister

"The move helped reduce our overall running costs, make efficiencies and make money by letting out our other council buildings."

She added the council had maximised revenue by renting out space to businesses Swatch and City Jet but admitted a reduced council presence was possible.

"As the council continues to review its services because of government cuts, we may have less services operating from Newham Dockside," she said.

"This might result in us renting out the whole building but retaining ownership of the space.

"However, there are no plans to sell the building at present."

'Massive bungle'

When it was opened in 2010, Building 1000 was heralded by the Labour-run authority as helping to save money by bringing services from 26 different locations under one roof.

Designer lights

Designer lights at Newham Council cost £1,853 each

But now a serving councillor, speaking on condition of anonymity, 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."

Responding to the revelation, local government minister Brandon Lewis said: "It's an amazing thing - spending £111m on a building that was argued by Newham to be saving money and yet they are sitting on empty buildings elsewhere.

"When you spend that sort of money just on light fittings and £111m on a building, residents looking for good quality services and low council tax will rightly be asking difficult questions of the council."

Mike Law, a former Newham councillor who now speaks out against the way the council is run, said: "It's a massive bungle.

"How can they say the taxpayer is going to be getting value for money by leasing Building 1000 out when the very reason they moved in there was allegedly to save money?

"There is a real problem with fiscal responsibility at Newham Council and it's a total fiasco."

The BBC has learned that concrete plans to move the housing benefits service from Building 1000 to its old East Ham site are already in place, and a new building will be built.

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