Time to look at alternatives to Sunderland Civic Centre say city Tories

Sunderland Civic Centre
Sunderland Civic Centre

Opposition councillors have said it is time to look for alternatives to Sunderland Civic Centre after it emerged £250,000 was allocated to a feasibility study into the building’s future.

The Conservative group on Sunderland City Council is questioning the cost after the amount was included in the budget for the coming financial year and wants a public debate on the matter.

Coun Michael Dixon.

Coun Michael Dixon.

Using empty public buildings in the city centre has been suggested as an alternative.

However, the Labour leadership hit back, saying the amount is an allocated budget.

Deputy Conservative leader Michael Dixon asked council leader Paul Watson at the recent budget meeting to explain why such a large amount was necessary for a feasibility study and what the plans for the building were.

Coun Dixon said: “£250,000 is a huge amount of money and it is unclear why so much has to be set aside for a feasibility study.

To undertake repairs to such a large building may saddle the taxpayer with bills for years to come and it may be time to look for alternative accommodation in the city centre

Coun Michael Dixon

“I was also trying to probe as to the overall thinking of the council’s leadership and the options for the future use of the Civic Centre building.

“The building was completed in 1970 and is now showing its age with various repairs necessary because of its structure, so a public debate should really take place as to its repair or replacement.

“To undertake repairs to such a large building may saddle the taxpayer with bills for years to come and it may be time to look for alternative accommodation in the city centre.

“As for these alternatives there is a vast amount of office space soon to be available on the old Vaux Site and other public buildings such as the nearby empty tax office which could also house the number of council employees in coming years.”

Mel Speding.

Mel Speding.

Cabinet secretary Mel Speding said: “This is an allocated budget – the clue is in the word budget – and includes the capital spending at the Civic Centre for on-going repairs and maintenance.

“This is as well as the options, survey and the professional fees and should the council not use the allocation the remaining balance will be returned to the general funds.

“If the Conservatives paid more attention at important meetings, they would have noticed and heard all this, about how the allocation reflects the size and scale of the options, plus the size and scale of the building and the car parks that are part of the Civic Centre site.”