Falkirk Council split on the right time to talk about HQ move

Falkirk Council is looking to move to new premises
Falkirk Council is looking to move to new premises
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Calls are being made to let the public have its say on Falkirk Council’s £21 million plans to build a new headquarters.

At a meeting of the full council yesterday (Wednesday) members agreed there should be talks on issues surrounding the proposed spend to replace the current Municipal Buildings in the town’s West Bridge Street. But there were differing views as to when this consultation should be carried out.

The ambitious plan to build new offices in front of the existing buildings and develop the Westbank Clinic next door was agreed by Falkirk Council’s Executive earlier this year - with hopes it will be ready and available to staff from March 2017.

On Wednesday councillors studied a summary of the business case for the proposal and asked to agree the report so plans could move to the next stage.

However, SNP Group leader Cecil Meiklejohn tabled an amendment calling for public consultation, which should include meetings with statutory consultees and the citizen’s panel, be carried out immediately and a report on their views brought back to the council.

She said: “There are a lot of uncertainties around this plan and I don’t think we have enough information here at the moment.

“Staff are not comfortable with this at all and worried they won’t be able to adapt. This will have an effect on their morale.

“We need to be sure this move and new way of working won’t have an adverse effect on services and staff.”

Councillor Meiklejohn’s amendment for immediate public consultation was defeated by 16 votes to 15, with administration members stating now was not the right time for such a move.

Council leader Craig Martin said: “We are trying to make this as cost effective as possible so it doesn’t impact on the council tax payer.

“The consultation will come when we have answers about costs and other details.”

Councillor Malcolm Nicol then put forward a further amendment stating the council commit to carrying out a full public consultation after more details about the move are made available.

Members were still discussing the matter as the Falkirk Herald went to press.

During the meeting independent Councillors Robert Spears and Brian McCabe called for the new council HQ to be situated outside Falkirk, in either Grangemouth or Denny, as this would guard against centralisation and help outlying areas.