‘Obscene’ town hall furniture bill blasted

An artist's impression of the new council offices in Cookson Street.
An artist's impression of the new council offices in Cookson Street.
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TOWN hall chiefs have come under fire for proposing to spend up to £200,000 a year on furniture – just days after axing vital services in order to save cash.

Businesses are being invited to tender for a contract to supply office furniture for up to four years, but there will also be an additional contract for 750 desks for the new £20m council offices being built in Cookson Street.

Suppliers are needed to provide between £50,000 and £200,000 of general office furniture per year.

And while the council insists the figure will be nearer the £50,000 mark, the move has been criticised at a time when the council has had to slash £14.1m from its budget and axe 300 jobs including up to 50 compulsory redundancies.

Blackpool’s CCTV service is being reduced to deliver savings of £187,600, meaning in future cameras will no longer be monitored, while another £600,000 of savings has been found by scrapping the youth service.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the opposition Tories on Blackpool Council, said: “Last Tuesday at the council’s budget meeting we heard the council leader Coun Simon Blackburn pledging to fight poverty, poor housing and government cuts and the very next day we see the council is to spend up to £200,000 per year on furniture for the next four years. This is hypocrisy on an obscene level. We should be saving jobs not spending fortunes on expensive desks and chairs.

“I would also like to hope it will be a local supplier who gets this lucrative contract.”

The procurement day is due to be held from 9am tomorrow and Friday at the Solaris Centre in South Shore.

An email sent to all councillors says: “The agreement is for a period of two years with the option to extend for up to a further two years and it is estimated to provide between £50,000 and £200,000 of general office furniture per annum.”

The email adds the new offices, which are part of the Central Business District scheme, will “accommodate desk space for approximately 750 desks”.

One council worker, who is faced with losing his job in the CCTV unit and who asked not to be named, said: “I am appalled the council think nice new desks are more important than CCTV which can save lives.

“People are losing their jobs and services are being cut so it is not the right time to be spending money on furniture”

Julie Bascombe, chairman of the Revoe Area Forum, and who also runs the Bugs to Butterflies youth group at Revoe Primary School, said: “I could run my group for four years on £30,000. Why doesn’t the council make do with what it has, or why don’t they get it restored by apprentices which would help young people get skills?”

And Bruce Allen, of Mereside Tenants and Residents Association, who campaigned to save CCTV, said: “It’s people that matter, not furniture.”

The council say the figure of up to £200,000 is precautionary in order to comply with EU procurement rules.

And Coun Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, explained this is a “routine transaction.”

He said: “This contract, or contracts should more than one supplier be chosen, will provide furniture for all areas of the council on the basis of need.

“There is no set annual spend and it is extremely unlikely that we will be spending anything approaching £200,000 annually.

“Replacing broken and old furniture is an essential task for any organisation as is providing furniture for new buildings. The events this week are aimed at giving local businesses the chance to examine whether this contract will be suitable for them although we must stress the contract is open to all businesses and we must seek to get best value for the taxpayer.”

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