THURROCK Councillors are set to discuss the “benefits” of spending £10 million on expanding council offices as part of a debate over a motion that calls for the plans to be abandoned.
A report on the expansion describes the plan as one of the “key elements” in a £6.6billion Thurrock-wide investment programme that will provide residents with a “modern, effective building” for accessing council services.
In a breakdown of the benefits to residents, it states that new technology will improve self-service facilities so that council officers can better assist the most vulnerable residents, rooms will be made available for hire and a modern café will be built inside the civic offices.
A section of the existing building will also be used for residential accommodation and the registrar office will be moved out of the Thameside Complex and into the new offices, freeing up space for community events.
The details have been published following a series of serious setbacks to the plan which has resulted in the council failing to secure planning permission and the majority of councillors voting in favour of a motion to abandon the plans.
But council officers note in the report that a “do-nothing option does not exist” because equipment in the older section of the building and on the ground floor of the newer section is “at the end of its economic life”.
A refurbishment rather than an extension would come at the cost of £7.2million, of which £4.8million has already been set aside.
The report goes on to say that while questions have been asked about where the money could be used if it were not spent on the expansion, “there have been no capital schemes put forward during the budget setting process that have been refused due to a lack of available funding”.
It adds: “If the extension scheme were to be abandoned, the benefits mentioned elsewhere in this report, such as the opportunity to provide town centre affordable housing, the refurbishment of Thameside Complex, an improved and more effective centre for council operation for residents, and a major contribution to the overall redevelopment of the town centre, would be lost.”