Posted: Sat 25th Nov 2023

Conwy Councillor Slams “Ridiculous” Decision to Spend £250,000 on Consultancy Fees

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Nov 25th, 2023

A Conwy councillor has branded a decision to spend £250,000 on consultancy fees ridiculous, criticising the council’s intention to sell Bodlondeb, moving staff and councillors to Coed Pella in Colwyn Bay.
Speaking at a finance and resources overview scrutiny committee this week, Cllr Sian Grady slammed the decision after other councillors attempted to justify spending the money to ‘design another council chamber’.
Conwy is facing a £20m to £30m budget shortfall next year, having already increased council tax by 9.9% last year as well as forcing services to make 10% cuts – with even schools having to slash budgets by 5%.
Conwy’s cabinet rubber-stamped the decision to spend the £250,000 on consultancy fees in September, hoping to sell the grade-two listed Bodlondeb to cut costs and raise funds.
But some councillors retrospectively criticised this decision, arguing a strategic vision for the council’s assets needed to be in place before spending quarter of a million pounds.
The committee was debating a report on its corporate risks when Cllr Harry Saville asked cabinet member for sustainable economy Cllr Nigel Smith a question.
Cllr Saville said the report indicated that Conwy didn’t currently have an asset management vision, questioning the wisdom of spending £250,000 on consultant fees without that in place.
He said: “We’ll see that the council apparently has no strategic vision for use of its assets.
“I’ll take the report as correct that we have no strategic plan. In light of that, is it really sensible for us to be looking at spending almost £250,000 on a consultancy study to remodel Coed Pella, which is a pretty new building, right now, in light of the financial position we find ourselves in?
“Should this really be a priority now? Should it not wait until we have that larger asset management plan and we know what our plans are for our office and accommodation portfolio for the council? I don’t know if Nigel (Cllr Smith) has any thoughts on that.”
Chairing the meeting, which was both online and at Bodlondeb, Cllr Cheryl Carlisle said: “Nigel, are you out there in the ether.”
But no answer came. Cllr Carlisle then said: “Maybe he’ll return at some later date and we can ask.”
Cllr Paul Luckock then championed spending the funds on the consultant fees.
“I think we should spend those (consultancy fees) because that’s part and parcel of us moving from Bodlondeb to Coed Pella, and we know that we have got to spend that money to do that efficiently and effectively,” he said.
“So I don’t think that that is a false economy because I think that will, long-term, ensure savings are made, and I know it’s embarrassing in the public domain to say, ‘well, part of the money may well be used to help design another council chamber, a new council chamber at Coed Pella, and that’s to do with your interests not ours.’”
He added, “I still think that £250,000 or whatever it is consultancy should go ahead.”
But Conwy councillor Cllr Sian Grady disagreed, calling the decision ridiculous.
“I completely disagree with Cllr Paul (Luckock) on this, which everybody would know, and I have to say I have to agree fully with what Cllr Harry (Saville) has to say,” she said.
“I’ve asked that the money be delayed. I don’t think that money l should be made (spent) at this time. Without a strategic vision for all our assets, we carry on disposing of assets like Bodlondeb or at least looking at it, which costs us money. We also get rid of our land. If we haven’t got that vision, how do we know what we want for the future? Because once they’ve (the buildings) gone, they’ve gone, and it’s ridiculous.”

By Richard Evans – Local Democracy Reporter



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