Property buy defended by SNP administration

Abbotsford House now belongs to Falkirk Council
Abbotsford House now belongs to Falkirk Council

Falkirk Council’s SNP administration has defended its decision to buy an office block – but admitted it could only be needed for a short time.

A private meeting of the executive last month agreed to purchase Abbotsford House in Langlees.

The cost has not been confirmed, but The Falkirk Herald understands that after fees and VAT the final bill was around £1 million.

Abbotsford House is used by the council’s development services staff and was being leased for £200,000 a year.

Labour councillors criticised the move and the issue was debated at a special meeting of the full council last Friday.

Labour Group leader Councillor Dennis Goldie said he did not understand the financial thinking behind taking on a property which the director Rhona Geisler had previously described as “not fit for purpose”, but was given assurances by Douglas Duff, director of planning and economic development, that the annual maintenance bill will never be any more than the £11,000 already in the budget.

Mr Duff confirmed: “There are no further plans to invest in the property at this time.”

He also revealed that as the project to find a suitable site to build a new council headquarters and arts centre moves forward, the need for Abbotsford House could be short term.

Labour Councillor Allyson Black, claimed she did not see the buy as an investment, and a request from Councillor Alan Nimmo for the exact cost of the purchase to be revealed was refused by Provost Tom Coleman who said that information was not part of the day’s business.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn maintained the move will save money because it will avoid the need to invest in fitting out an office suite at Falkirk Stadium for staff.

Chief executive Mary Pitcaithly said: “This gives us stability and continuity. In a year or two we will be in profit from this and in a short period of time Abbotsford House could be a valuable asset.”