Row brewing over �23.7m council move plan

THE news that the county council and police authority are set to buy Landmark House on the Whitehouse Industrial Estate and St Edmund House in Rope Walk as new offices and a new police station has raised several questions.

The total cost of the changes has been given as �23.7million – and while that looks like a very precise figure there is a question mark over the exact number.

The council and police authority don’t yet know how much the updating of Landmark House is going to cost – the work has been put out to tender but the contractor has not yet been chosen and the price is therefore not set.

However it is believed refurbishment could cost between �6m and �8m.

And the cost of the scheme will inevitably depend on the price the police and council get for the buildings they are selling in the town. That will, of course, depend on the market conditions at the time they are sold – sometime after the completion of the moves in 2012/13.

Today we look at the options in the town. We have spoken to leading commercial estate agent Jeremy Goddard who knows the Ipswich property market well and has given his view on the value of the buildings.

POLITICIANS at the county council are set to clash over the value of the proposals over the next few months.

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County Council deputy leader Jane Storey, who is responsible for the county’s financial performance, said: “These changes will allow the police authority and the council to come together in up-to-date offices and provide better services.

“They will save us �500,000 a year which has to be good news for Suffolk council taxpayers.”

Former Labour council leader Bryony Rudkin was dubious about the figures: “How can they know what the cost will be so precisely when they haven’t yet got in tenders.

“Have they tested the market before putting buildings up for sale? When we were in administration we always talked to local estate agents who knew the market in Suffolk first. I’m not sure that has happened this time.”

And finance spokesman for the opposition, Liberal Democrats Andrew Cann was scathing about the proposals and the lack of consultation before the announcement was made.

He said: “If the council is spending �23.7million to save �500,000 a year that is a pretty poor return. If you put �23.7million in a bank account you’d earn more than �500,000 a year!”