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Town Hall to go at a saving of £1m a year

By Bedfordshire On Sunday  |  Posted: April 11, 2010

By CHRIS GILL

How that corner of St Paul's Square will look after the Town Hall is demolished

How that corner of St Paul's Square will look after the Town Hall is demolished

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Bedford’s Town Hall office block is to be knocked down in an attempt to save taxpayers around £1m a year.

The town’s Mayor Dave Hodgson says that ‘few tears will be shed over its demise’.

Staff who currently work there will be transferred to Borough Hall in Cauldwell Street, while Bedford’s Civic Theatre will become a ‘One Stop Shop’ council facility.

Mr Hodgson said: “The demise of the Town Hall office block gives us an exciting opportunity to make the most of Bedford’s greatest asset, the River Great Ouse, allowing us to open up the riverside in that area to residents and visitors to the town.

“Moving staff out of the Town Hall and other leased offices into the one site at Borough Hall will also save local taxpayers up to more than £1million per year.

“I am continuing the drive to make sure the council is open and accessible to all residents, and as part of this we must retain a town centre presence where people know any enquiry can be dealt with.

“Converting the Civic Theatre, which is showing its age as an arts venue and is a poor relation of the Corn Exchange and the Harpur Suite, makes financial sense for local taxpayers and commonsense for people in town who want to conveniently use our services.

“We want to invest in the beautiful old Town Hall complex, including the Civic Theatre building, and revitalise the riverside area.

“This will involve development which enhances the riverside, complements nearby features and strengthens the link between the town centre and the river.

“We will be seeking the views of residents on this and I look forward to the thoughts and ideas which come forward.”
 
However, the decision to axe the Civic Theatre as a show venue immediately drew criticism from the Tory group.
 
Leader of the Conservatives on the borough council, Cllr Carole Ellis said: “People grumble because there are too many clubs and pubs in Bedford town centre but what alternative do many young people have for socialising if spaces such as the Civic Theatre are being taken away? “Essentially the Mayor is confiscating their facility.

“It may be a time for change but not this change.”
 
Deputy Tory group leader Cllr Tom Wootton added: “We do not want a unique facility taken for yet more council offices on the whim of the Mayor. Once these types of facilities are gone they are gone for good.”
 
The plans will allow the council to save £285,000 by terminating existing accommodation leases, while the demolition of the Town Hall is expected to cut around £760,000 per year in running costs.

The council will announce later in the year what it intends to do with the site.

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