Councillors critical of proposed council staff move to Dorchester

Dorset Echo: CONCERN: Weymouth and Portland Council Offices CONCERN: Weymouth and Portland Council Offices

PLANS to move almost 100 council staff from Weymouth to Dorchester have been criticised by councillors.

Proposals to move workers out of council offices at North Quay have been given the go ahead but members of the Weymouth and Portland management committee criticised suggestions to export workers to South Walks House in Dorchester.

A line in the report was amended before councillors approved the plan, with officers agreeing to present all options and estimated costs to a future meeting of the committee.

The suggestion of moving to South Walks House was removed from the report.

Councillors also agreed to consult staff and negotiate with trade unions before any firm decisions are made.

The move is likely to include a contribution towards travel costs for relocated staff for a set period.

But councillors warned against moving offices out of the borough.

The report prepared by officers also came under fire for lacking detail.

Councillor Ray Nowak said: “If we are not prepared to invest in our own borough, who else should?

“People who work in Dorchester will spend their money there, not in Weymouth. It affects the whole of the economy.”

Councillor Ian Bruce asked how much it would cost the council to rent out office space at South Walks House.

He also suggested the Guildhall or the Pavilion as alternative sites for offices.

But Councillor Ian Roebuck said the Guildhall is ‘less of an asset and more an ongoing liability’.

Speaking in response to the criticisms, David Evans, director of environment, said there was a ‘huge plethora’ of options available.

He said: “We need to have a direction in which you wish to head.

“What we can then do is come back with full costs and options.”

The report was slammed by businesses and trade unions when it was published ahead of the meeting.

Councillors agreed ‘in principle’ to move from North Quay, which costs around £250,000 per year to run, at a full council meeting in February.

Refurbishment of the building would cost around £2million.

South Walks House, the Crookhill Depot in Chickerell and the Mulberry Centre were all identified as possible sites for relocation.

Chairing the meeting, Councillor Peter Chapman said he was ‘uncomfortable’ with the committee questioning decisions that had already been made by full council.

He said: “There’s a benefit to having the site redeveloped in terms of people living here and businesses operating here, which will be good for the economy.

“Everyone in the council wants it gone and we will look like idiots if we stop at this hurdle today.”

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