South Oxfordshire District Council HQ plans 'under review'

  • Published
The plans for the new HQImage source, SODC
Image caption,
The council currently plans to spend £17.8m on the new complex

Plans for a new £17.8m council headquarters to replace one burnt down in an arson attack are under review due to coronavirus and working from home.

South Oxfordshire District Council planned to spend millions on a new site at Crowmarsh Gifford after its former HQ was destroyed in January 2015.

Its leader Sue Cooper said that is now "under review" and officers' views on future home working are being sought.

An opponent said the plans would be an "abuse of taxpayers' money".

Andrew Main, from Rokemarsh, started the fire at the former HQ after he drove a car filled with gas cylinders into it. He was detained in a mental health unit in May 2015.

Media caption,

The BBC's Katharine Da Costa says bomb disposal experts have been deployed at the scene

Conservatives who led the council until May 2019 had planned to spend £9.4m on the new building. But since then a coalition of Liberal Democrats and Greens increased the budget by another £8.4m.

Councillor Cooper, the leader of the council and a Liberal Democrat, said she was now "keeping an open mind" about the plans.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "The initial reaction to working from home is not going to be the same as how our staff feel two or three months on. We shall keep the new building under review."

Jane Murphy, the Conservatives' group leader, said the current plans are "too extravagant and an abuse of taxpayers' money".

She added: "While home working won't suit everyone, this is the moment to pause, reset and create a smaller, sustainable, less expensive building that is in line with the expectations of our residents."

A staff survey on their views of home working will take about two months to complete.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
A burnt out car could be seen in the former HQ's foyer after Andrew Main drove it into the building

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