‘Democracy eroded’ as £9m council office move plan divides the parties

tis  Harrogate Council building.  (140131M1c)
tis Harrogate Council building. (140131M1c)

Relationships between Harrogate’s two biggest political parties hit a new low last week as councillors rowed over a proposed £9million council office move.

The Lib Dems were knocked back by the Conservative majority after they called for a public consultation into proposals to build state-of-the-art new offices at Knapping Mount and sell off the landmark Crescent Gardens office building.

Harrogate Lib Dem leader, Starbeck Coun Phillip Broadbank proposed a motion calling for a public meeting to explain the council office move options before Easter.

Coun Broadbank told the council: “There is no doubt that the public think the council has chosen the option of a new building even though it is more expensive.”

“The public consultation planned is nothing more than the type of consultation on a planning application.

Woodfield Coun Greta Knight (Lib Dem) said: “If we go to the public with information and plans on one proposal only we are suggesting that decision has already been made.”

Conservative Council Leader, Coun Anthony Alton amended the motion to suit his party and confirmed a consultation would take place. He said: “There will be a consultation, it will be long, it will be thorough, it will be democratic.”

Boroughbridge Coun Robert Windass (Con) said: “This side of the chamber would welcome the first sentence of that motion but there is no rush to get a meeting before Easter.

Nidd Valley Coun Helen Flynn (Lib Dem) said: “Knapping Mount has been proposed as the only option, there never seems to be as much detail for the other options.

“As far as I can see democracy is being eroded at an alarming rate, this council has ignored the results of a public consultation in which 61 per cent of people voted in favour of a council tax rise and froze tax.”

She added: “The meeting we are calling for would give the public a chance to hear both options and make up their minds.”