THERE has been much written about the district council’s plans to build one central office and we want to reassure residents as to why the council intends to continue with the project.

The main reason is that it will save £500,000 per year which we can use to protect local services.

All Councillors are well aware that an exhaustive process has led the council to this point over recent years. For any opposition group to say the case hasn’t been put, debated or scrutinised just isn’t true.

So why are we so committed to seeing this project delivered? Is it driven by ideology? Yes, absolutely! An ideology that we want to spend more money on delivering services and less money on buildings to accommodate our staff. We would have thought that is an ideology that should make up a large part of every local councillor.

The local government settlement announced on December 13 could see the Government’s grant to Wyre Forest cut by 29 per cent over the next two years. We endorse the petition that the Shuttle has started on the issue of Government funding, but the grant cuts make the case for building new offices even more pressing. The status quo is not an option: we must continue to modernise the council to make sure it is fit for purpose to deliver services to our local community. There is little point in the opposition parties saying that they are against centralised office accommodation and against sharing services with neighbouring councils, without saying how they propose to make savings to deal with the proposed 29 per cent cut in Government grant.

So why not just extend one of the council’s existing buildings? Of course, this option has been explored but it just does not stack up, financially or operationally.

The Civic Centre site in Stourport wasn’t built to be extended and isn’t easily accessible for large parts of Wyre Forest’s communities. The cheapest, most effective option is a new build.

So why can’t we just spend the money on services instead of the new building? Firstly, because we need to make annual savings that bring down the cost of running the council, year on year, and secondly we are not allowed to because of Government rules. We recognise that members of the public do not distinguish between different types of expenditure in their household budgets, but councils are not given any choice as they cannot use capital funding for day-to-day revenue expenditure such as services. The money that we are using to build the offices comes from our capital plan and is funded through receipts we have already banked by selling assets or which we plan to generate through further sale of redundant assets.

A single site will see the council move to a building that it will own, move out of some offices that it currently rents and sell the surplus offices which will help fund the project. The project will not run over budget nor will it see any long term mortgage. What the project will deliver is an asset for current and future generations, not the financial millstone that the current accommodation situation resembles. It has been said that these plans are self-serving to those that are proposing it. Nothing could be further from the truth – the benefits of this project are for the community that we serve. We continue to be happy to talk to any member of the public about this or any other district issue. Please contact us on 01562 732708.

JOHN-PAUL CAMPION (District council Leader) MARCUS HART (Deputy Leader & Cabinet Member for Housing & Environmental Services) TRACEY ONSLOW ( Cabinet Member for Community & Partnership Services) STEPHEN CLEE (Cabinet Member for Planning & Economic Regeneration) ANNE HINGLEY ( Cabinet Member for Legal & Corporate Services) NATHAN DESMOND (Cabinet Member for Resources)