Tories’ Shire Hall gamble

Liberal Democrats at Shire Hall presenting a petition

Following a meeting behind closed doors on Tuesday, Cambridgeshire County Council has announced Brookgate as its preferred bidder for the council’s Shire Hall site in Cambridge.

The decision was taken in confidential session, although I and the other Liberal Democrat councillors voted against the exclusion of the press and public — ‘clearing the public gallery’ as the administration crassly put it.

Brookgate, the company that has developed the CB1 development of Cambridge station, will lease the Shire Hall site for a period still to be agreed. The company proposes to establish a hotel and office accommodation there, while the County Council moves its HQ to Alconbury, Huntingdonshire, 25 miles away from Cambridge.

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Lucy Nethsingha speaks for us all today, saying: “The Liberal Democrat group have very grave concerns about the decision taken this week on the future of the Shire Hall site.

“We have opposed the move to Alconbury, on the basis that there are too many levels of government in Cambridgeshire, and the Conservatives should not be building an expensive new headquarters at a time when we should be reducing the number of councils and moving to a unitary structure.

“We are also deeply worried by the lease mechanism which has been pushed through the council by the Conservatives against cross-party opposition.

“The proposed lease arrangement leaves the council with a high level of future risk.

“The expectations of income over the next 30 years depend on complex calculations of inflation and rental income. This income is far from certain.  Yet again it seems Conservatives are pushing risk and cost onto future generations.” 

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