Councillor vows to stage 'sit-in' at Northamptonshire County Council's former headquarters if authority sells it

County Hall is set to be sold to the highest bidder. But Councillor Dennis Meredith - top left - is among many opposition councillors opposing the move. Cabinet member for finance Councillor Michael Clarke, says the sale is necessary.
County Hall is set to be sold to the highest bidder. But Councillor Dennis Meredith - top left - is among many opposition councillors opposing the move. Cabinet member for finance Councillor Michael Clarke, says the sale is necessary.

Keeping County Hall open is a cost that cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council can ‘ill afford’ – according to the authority’s cabinet member for finance - but opposition members are railing against the sale.

The council announced last Monday that it was looking to sell off the grade I listed building, parts of which date back to the mid-1700s.

But at an annual running cost of £380,000, County Hall is now deemed ‘surplus to requirements’, and cabinet agreed on Tuesday afternoon to pursue a sale of the whole of the site in George Row.

Speaking at the meeting, at One Angel Square, cabinet member for finance Councillor Michael Clarke said: “The primary purpose of this report is to examine how One Angel Square and the County Hall can be used to best maximise revenue and space. It costs £380k to keep that building open, and that’s a cost that the council can ill afford.”

The move was met with opposition by a number of members of the public and councillors at the meeting.

James Ashton, a former county councillor, told the meeting: “I’ve worked as a property consultant for 21 years before I joined the council. If you try to dispose of this you will get little or nothing in return.”

And Liberal Democrat councillor Dennis Meredith added: “If we sell this building off it will be a disgrace to this council. It’s a building of natural history and it’s the job of this council to make sure that the building is preserved.

“My offices are in that building, and I won’t be leaving until the election. I’ll do a sit-in, and if you sell this building I will embarrass you all in a national campaign.”

But Councillor Clarke said the council would be aiming to still have access to the building – which acted as the democratic hub of the council – through the council chamber and data centre.

He added: “After weighing things up, we’re seeking a single buyer, but we would require county council to have access to the council chamber, and also to retain control of the data centre which runs the IT – that would cost millions to relocate. The disposal of the site won’t be easy and poses a number of challenges.”

The county council has already sold its One Angel Square headquarters last month to Canada Life Investments.