Warwickshire County Council splash £13k on leader’s furniture

Shire Hall and, inset Cllr Izzi Seccombe.
Shire Hall and, inset Cllr Izzi Seccombe.

New furniture to make Warwickshire County Council’s leader’s office look ‘credible’ has cost taxpayers more than £13,000.

The money was splashed on office furniture when Conservative leader of the council Izzi Seccombe decided to relocate her working space – moving to the chief executive’s former office.

The £13,770 spend was revealed by the council after it received a Freedom of Information request.

The Conservative-led council said the furniture was needed to make the organisation look credible to investors.

But the leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrat council groups said it was inappropriate when millions of pounds of cuts are being made.

Steve Smith, head of Physical Assets at Warwickshire County Council, said: “The money spent on the office was part of a wider project which incorporated moving the leader from her original office and associated works to two other offices.

“This was part of a sequence of work to ensure better use of space.”

When the paper invited a more detailed explanation of the expenditure, a spokesperson for Warwickshire County Council said: “The leader’s office is the council venue for high-level meetings with Government officials, businesses, and key influencers.

“Warwickshire attracts significant investment from various sectors which benefit the entire county and our residents.

“Clearly, it is important that the county council presents itself as a credible partner and our meeting spaces need to reflect this.”

Cllr Richard Chattaway, leader of Labour’s Warwickshire County Council group, said: “I think residents of Warwickshire who pay their hard-earned council tax will be quite surprised at this use of public money.

“I can think of many better ways of spending this money when cuts are being made all over the county.

“Refurbishing offices that don’t need it, and obtaining new furniture – surely we must have a basement full of stuff after a number of people have left WCC having been made redundant because of cuts.”

Cllr Jerry Roodhouse, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “I think it is disappointing that so much was spent. The office looked okay when the chief executive used it and did not need much of an upgrade.

“Money is tight and it should not have cost as much.”

The Freedom of Information request was received by the council on November 17, 2017.

It was titled ‘Expenditure - Leaders’ Office’.

The news comes as the council announced it has to find savings of £9 million in the next financial year – followed by an expected £16 million between 2019 and 2020.

Under its new budget, set on Tuesday February 6, the council unveiled plans to increase council tax by 4.99 per cent, beginning in April.
Search for FOI on www.warwickshire.gov.uk