City Council HQ move hits £55m
THE cost to taxpayers of building the new city centre Central Business District is to hit £55 million.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is already spending an estimated £40 million on its new headquarters in Hanley.
And The Sentinel can reveal the authority is now expecting to invest up to £15 million more on 'future phases' of the scheme.
Most of the money will be loaned.
Demolition work is now underway to clear more than 12 shops in Broad Street, Hanley, to allow the development to commence.
The council is building and occupying two office blocks in the CBD, which it hopes will help create thousands of jobs by persuading the private sector to follow its lead.
But it has faced intense criticism for its plan to vacate Stoke – which include selling the Civic Centre, Spode, King's Hall and town hall to offset the amount it will loan. The authority will look to spend the additional money on preparing the site for expansion after its own HQ opens in 2015.
It could include subsidy for office blocks expected to be occupied by private businesses.
Developer Genr8, which is building the CBD at the former Unity House site, declined to comment.
Graham Barrett, co-ordinator of the Save our Stoke campaign, said: "All of this money is being wasted on a castle in the sky that nobody wants. The council is just not listening to what the people of the city are telling them.
The council estimates the completed CBD will bring 4,500 new jobs to the city over 10 years, adding £62 million a year to the North Staffordshire economy.
Leaders say businesses are interested in the project but are reluctant to commit without public funding to demonstrate its viability. But campaigners have focused on the expense of the project and its impact on trade in Stoke when thousands of workers are relocated.
They are also angry that the existing Civic Centre, which opened 20 years ago at a cost of £20 million, is likely to be knocked down when sold.
Opposition and City Independents leader Dave Conway, pictured, said: "Nobody is stupid enough to say they don't have aspirations for our city but you just don't spend this amount of money when you don't have it."
The council will borrow up to £59 million over the next five years to fund its investment in the CBD and other long-term infrastructure projects.
Paul Shotton, the council's deputy leader, said: "The additional funding is for land assembly requirements and further development of future phases of the CBD – not the build for the two buildings which the city council will occupy."