£56,000 council upgrade branded a ‘waste’

Ribble Valley Borough Council chamber.
Ribble Valley Borough Council chamber.

Council chiefs have come under fire after announcing plans to spend thousands of pounds to upgrade the civic suite.

Ribble Valley Borough Council is set to fork out £56,000 to replace broken chairs and a “dated” audio system in its chamber – bringing it up-to-date for the 21st century.

The decision, which was given the go-ahead at a Policy and Finance Committee meeting (March 28th), has been criticised by local businessman and chairman of Clitheroe Town Action Group, Mr Kevin Horkin, who feels the cash can be better spent on projects to improve the town’s shop fronts, deteriorated pavements and public features.

The council has defended the move, saying people sitting in the public gallery or top table struggle to hear the proceedings and a new system is the way forward.

But Mr Horkin disagrees. Speaking to the Clitheroe Advertiser, he said: “It’s very disappointing that so much money is being wasted on needless work, I was in the council chamber a few months ago and didn’t think the tables and chairs required replacing.

“There are only some people that will benefit from this investment, but money spent in the town centre will benefit thousands of people. There are a multitude of town centre projects that need attention. There are good ideas to enhance shop fronts, fix our pavements and may be introduce a heritage trail to increase footfall into Clitheroe. Money that was promised to us to be spent on the ‘townscape’ project has been delayed again. The £55,000 promised to us by the borough council is crucial for the vitality of the town.”

He added: “We have several hotspots around the town centre that need enhancing and prove to visitors what a historic place Clitheroe really is. We can find a better project to spend the money on.”

In a report prepared by the council’s chartered civil engineer, Mr Adrian Harper, he explains the money will be spent on new audio, lighting, CCTV, chairs and tables. The report states: “The audio system is dated and ineffective for members not sat the top table or for those in the public gallery.

“The lighting is original and ineffective. The proposal is to install a wireless delegate PA system. This to include individual wireless microphones for all members. The proposal for the lighting is to replace all lighting within the suite, the meeting rooms and the gallery with LED units and upgrade the existing CCTV system for the public gallery.

“The projector is only approximately seven years old, but is outdated and there have been issues recently with reliability and quality. The proposal is to replace the projector with a HD projector together with a new wider wall screen.”

“The chairs are over 25 years old and have been repaired on a number of occasions. However, the quality of these repairs is being increasingly compromised or made more difficult by the condition of the timber around the repairs. In order to prevent the use of the furniture becoming hazardous to the user, it is proposed that the chairs are replaced. The particular model of chair is obsolete and therefore individual chairs cannot be replaced. There are 45 chairs in total, three of which have become hazardous to use, cannot be further repaired and therefore been removed, including the chairman’s seat.”

Speaking at the meeting, Mr John Heap, director of community services, said: “We are trying to bring our audio system into the 21st century. When the chamber was built, it was not fashionable to see and hear what was going on. Times have changed.”

Work to transform the civic suite is due to start in November.