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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

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Why is council spending £70,000 so staff can go to spend a penny?

A West Cumbrian UKIP member has criticised Allerdale council’s decision to spend nearly £70,000 on toilets for its Workington headquarters.

But council bosses have insisted that the work at Allerdale House was vital and long overdue.

The council is also spending £15,000 to find a new chief executive to replace Harry Dyke, who will retire from the council next month.

As part of the work at Allerdale House, 16 toilets were refurbished, fittings replaced, and energy efficient hand dryers installed.

A new ventilation system with fire protection was installed, and all disabled toilets were upgraded to comply with current legislation.

Mark Jenkinson, who set up West Cumbria’s first recognised branch of the UK Independence Party, claimed: “In these times of austerity the controlling group on Allerdale council organise protests against the bedroom tax while simultaneously increasing the council tax by 1.9 per cent.

“This increase affects everybody and is expected to raise about £94,000, which we see is paying for lavish toilet upgrades and consultants fees.

“At the same time we see parks, play areas and allotments off-loaded to town and parish councils while funding to the same councils is slashed. Jobs are being axed. Just where do their priorities lie?”

The £69,198 refurbishment comes at a time when staff are losing their jobs, and frontline services are at risk.

The council is trying to save £3.5million in three years.

It announced in January that 34 jobs would be lost and 22 created as part of a restructuring process.

Councillor Alan Smith, council leader, said: “At the end of the day the council is like any other employer. We have to make sure that the health and safety of employees is maintained.

“This is an operational issue. As leader of the council I will make sure that staff and visitors have adequate toilet provision and hygiene.

“As far as I’m concerned every penny has been spent right.”

A council spokesman said: “We have a planned a series of long overdue maintenance projects for Allerdale House as the building has received very little investment in the 22 years since construction.

“The planned projects have been prioritised to support the long-term suitability of the building for the current use.

“The council has recently completed moving staff from all outlying offices – apart from the customer contact centres in Maryport, Cockermouth, Keswick and Wigton – relocating staff to Allerdale House.

“The closure and disposal of existing outlying offices will ultimately realise a saving of £50,000 year on year.”

Mr Jenkinson also criticised the £15,000 set aside to find a new council chief executive.

A council spokeswoman said: “The authority has negotiated a fee far smaller than usual industry rates.

“It is normal for large organisations and businesses to use professional consultants when recruiting to a senior position and past experience has shown, both within the authority and in other similar organisations, that using such consultants is the most efficient and cost-effective method of finding the highest quality candidates.

“Allerdale council’s chief executive oversees a budget in excess of £25million and a staff of more than 280 people.

“The successful candidate will be leading the authority at a very challenging time following a major restructure, and when budgets are incredibly tight, so it is vital that the council takes the right steps to find the very best person for the role.”

Coun Smith added: “In life everything comes at a cost and £15,000 is a reasonable cost to get the best person for Allerdale and for the taxpayers of Allerdale.”

He also offered to give Mr Jenkinson a personal tour of Allerdale House to show him what had been done.

Have your say

They recruited Ian Frost to the position of Chief Exec. Ian Frost had just finished a stint at the Council as their Corporate Director.

This means that the Council spent £15k of your money recruiting someone who had literally been sitting in the next office.

What a scandalous waste of money. Does anyone know the name of the firm who now has £15k of tax payers money in their pockets?

Posted by Allerdale Council Watch on 23 July 2013 at 22:01

Would previous commenters be happier if staff and customers at the council offices had sub standard facilities?? Come on if this was any other business in the area it wouldn't get a mention and if there wasn't an election doubt mr jenkinson would have commented!

Posted by Rocky on 28 April 2013 at 10:38

View all 12 comments on this article

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