Councillors have been accused of organising a “vanity project” as they approved the purchase of land which could become home to a new £8.25 million “public sector hub” for East Lindsey.
Members of East Lindsey District Council’s full council on Wednesday approved the move which also signed off funding for the potential build, including a campus for Boston College students, built on the site of the Horncastle Residential College.
If the build was successful, the authority would spend £500,000 to buy the site, £6.226 million for the council build and £1.52 million for the college build.
However, those against the plans criticised a lack of detail on the proposals – especially around transport and the ongoing costs relating to Tedder Hall and Skegness Town Hall once the council left them.
Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders called it a “vanity project”, while Councillor Leonard said the plan had “not been thought through”.
“You should have all your ducks in a row and they are not – they are dead in the water,” he said.
Council leader Councillor Leyland, however, disagreed. He said the project was in the early stages and assured councillors it would be scrutinised going forward.
The plan includes a new “smaller, fit-for-purpose” headquarters, which will replace those at Tedder Hall in Manby and Skegness Town Hall, which bosses say are “remote and difficult to access” and cause issues for the recruitment and retention of staff.
Council leaders said many risks had been overestimated, while savings had been underestimated in order to create a “worst case” solution.
“We’re not reckless, this is not a vanity project. This is about doing something for the residents and staff of our authority going forward,” said Councillor Leyland.
Councillors said the build would also help with organising a “wheel and spoke model” for the council, which would see staff remote working from various locations – putting them “at the heart of their communities”.
The college could also have access to a council facilities including the meeting chamber.
It is also hoped health and police services could be based on site.
Mayor of Horncastle and ward member Councillor Fiona Martin said she was “pleased by the decision”.
“This could be a positive thing, not only for Horncastle but for East Lindsey as a whole and I’m looking forward to working with the officers… there are very exciting times,” she said.
ELDC reports say the move will offset £5.31 million running and maintenance costs from the sale or development of Tedder Hall, in Manby, and Skegness Town Hall.
The Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership could also contribute £1.52 million towards the college.
This, it says, effectively leaves just £1.42 million to find, though it is hoped the project overall will be cost neutral.
SUBSCRIBE TO LOCAL DEMOCRACY WEEKLY, our exclusive email newsletter with highlights from coverage every week, as well as insights and analysis from our local democracy reporters.