Northampton

Northamptonshire County Council pauses County Hall sale plans

County Hall, Northampton
Image caption County Hall in Northampton town centre dates back to the 18th century

A financially strained council will reconsider a decision to sell its former Grade II-listed home.

Northampton's 18th Century County Hall still contains a number of offices for Northamptonshire County Council (NCC).

Cabinet had approved putting the building up for sale on 11 June, but opposition councillors have called-in the decision and a scrutiny committee will now reconsider the proposal.

The government proposed dissolving the authority after it ran out of money.

As well as paying back £12m into reserves, NCC needs to make £35m annual savings and it had been suggested that selling County Hall would save £380,000 a year.

'No depth to sale plans'

The town centre building is one of the most historic in Northampton and as well as being the venue for council meetings it is also used as the coroner's court and tourist information office.

However, an earlier meeting heard the council could "ill afford" its running costs and recommended selling it.

A group of eight opposition councillors led by Liberal Democrat leader Chris Stanbra called-in the decision on the grounds it was not made according to proper procedure.

"We were told it would make £380,000 of savings but we now understand that £165,000 of this now cannot be made because the former constabulary block houses the Local Government Shared Services (LGSS) data centre," Mr Stanbra told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

LGSS looks after a large number of services for Northamptonshire including HR, legal services, temporary employment, IT services and revenue and benefits collection.

Image caption The county council sold its new One Angel Square HQ in April to rent it back

Mr Stanbra also said if County Hall was lost the authority would most likely have to hire a venue for full council meetings, meaning further costs.

Other councillors who backed the call-in were Liberal Democrat Dennis Meredith, independent councillor Julie Davenport, and Labour's Bob Scott, John McGhee, Julie Brookfield, Mick Scrimshaw and Jane Birch.

NCC sold its new One Angel Square HQ in April, choosing to rent it back so it could help balance the books, but it was built without a council chamber.

The scrutiny meeting to discuss the County Hall sale will have to be convened before 3 July, according to constitutional rules.

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