Changes to office accommodation at Midlothian House to make better use of space and save money have been branded “a vanity project”.
Since the building on Buccleuch Street, Dalkeith, was built in 1990 the third floor has been occupied by councillors and previously the chief executive. That is now set to change, with council staff vacating the Jarnac Court premises, which costs the council £68,000 each year.
Works costing an estimated £20,000 from the existing property repairs budget were approved last week for the reconfiguration of members’ accommodation following the recent council elections.
The removal of the members’ lounge for office accommodation will cost £122,000, paid for from the General Service Capital Plan.
Speaking at last week’s full council meeting, SNP group leader Cllr Kelly Parry attacked the plans: “I just find this paper quite bizarre, because this was meant to be a cross-party agreement.
“It seems like that the only people willing to talk have been the SNP group. It reminds me of Teresa May’s DUP money tree, all of a sudden we have found £20,000 and I just think of what else we could have used that for.
“When we keep hearing about the need to save money and we are hearing about how people in Midlothian are suffering, to spend a six figure sum on a vanity project is disgusting.
“We had 18 councillors there before so to spend £20,000 on this is not needed and we could even give up our offices if needed.
“I agree we should transform the space but I would like to see a more detailed business plan.”
Midlothian Council leader Derek Milligan (Lab) responded: “The reality here is this isn’t a vanity project, Kelly is simply looking for a soundbite on Twitter.
“There is a massive saving year on year, it’s about retracting the space we are using, allowing workforce onto the third floor, taking away the members’ lounge and office space. How she can say this is a vanity project defies belief. This actually saves the council money.
“We have had several meetings and councillor Parry has never mentioned any of this. We are quite happy with the proposal, it’s going to save money over the years, therefore we are going to move forward with the recommendations tabled here.”
The recommendations to approve the works received 12 votes, while Cllr Parry’s proposal to continue the report for more detail got five votes.