Councillors face a multi-million pound financial headache to find the cash to keep a roof over their heads.
They have been told Falkirk Council’s Municipal Buildings headquarters in West Bridge Street passed its realistic ‘sell by date’ a decade ago.
The crumbling HQ which houses 32 councillors, 330 staff, council chambers and committee rooms and has Falkirk Town Hall next door, needs £5 million spent on urgent repairs – and local taxpayers will be expected to foot part of the bill.
An action plan to decide if that is the best way ahead is being prepared. Alternatives are also being considered – but none of them will be cheap.
The options include carrying out repairs to extend the building’s life span by a few years, refurbishing the existing complex at a cost of up to £23 million – or spending £36 million on a full-scale replacement.
The policy and resources committee was warned this week the prospect of finding the cash from existing budgets to build a new civic centre is “bleak” and raising funds from the sale of assets an unrealistic prospect because of the continuing weakness of the property development market.
Rhona Geisler, head of development services, said: “There is a critical need to address the poor condition of the council’s existing primary headquarters accommodation at the Municipal Buildings as a key priority. It is a building which was not designed for the job it is now doing. It is inefficient in terms of service delivery, energy use and maintenance demands.
“We have to acknowledge there is a need to do something but it will not be a quick fix. Spending a ball park figure of £5 million on a building which is not fit for purpose would be a ‘make do and mend’ project and questionable if it would represent value for money.”
An interim report on the options will be ready by March and a detailed business case to deliver a “high quality sustainable asset which provides the council’s civic, cultural and service needs” – including identifying the high profile site where it could be located – considered by the full council in June.
Council leader Councillor Craig Martin said: “We have come to a critical time with regards to this building. It is not fit for purpose and every day that goes by it’s wearing away and spending £5 million is not really going to get us much more life out of it. It’s a big ask for the taxpayer but we have to make sure we do not go into this with our eyes closed.”
Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, leader of the SNP Group, said: “It depends on the way the wind is blowing if you are hot or cold. It is not an ideal working environment for staff or elected members, but we are going to have to sell these options to the taxpayer and a partial rebuilt on the existing site is possibly something we should consider.
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