How much has been splashed out on council move to canal beauty spot?

Cllr Rhondda Geekie at the new Marina HQ
Cllr Rhondda Geekie at the new Marina HQ

COME clean on the true cost of your move to Southbank Marina – that’s the demand to council chiefs, who are insisting their recent switch of HQs makes economic sense.

East Dunbartonshire Council completed the move to Southbank Marina from Tom Johnston House at the end of August.

It cost £500,000 to fit out the new civic and corporate headquarters, however, council officers insisted that the move could save the authority around £350,000 per year.

But some have questioned whether the figures add up.

One Herald reader said: “How much has it actually cost East Dunbartonshire Council to move into Sothbank Marina?

“How much debt has been inherited from the development company that went to the wall, and how much is it costing to service that debt?

“I’ve tried to find out, but the council refuse to tell me.”

The marina was one of the properties formerly owned by East Dunbartonshire Development Company, who hit financial difficulties early last year after nervous banks pulled funding.

East Dunbartonshire Council stepped in to buy them out, taking ownership of properties valued at around £10million.

At the time, council leader Rhondda Geekie told the Herald that the deal would “pay for itself” after council officers negotiated “beneficial terms” with the bank, adding: “The income stream from the rentals will pay for the purchase of the property.”

But having now moved into the offices themselves, the council will no longer be able to rely on increased rent – leaving them facing interest payments from the bank and increasing the cost of moving.

Grace Irvine, the council’s head of assets and property services, admitted that potential rental income would be lost, but insisted that this had been factored into their decision to buy.

She said: “Due to the economic downturn it proved impossible to attract any significant commercial tenant interest to the marina.

“The business case to purchase East Dunbartonshire Development Company’s extensive property portfolio across the whole of East Dunbartonshire recognised the difficulties in securing tenancies and assumed income was therefore set at a conservative level.

“The fact that we now occupy a part of one of the premises has no impact on our ability to pay back the loan.”

She added: “Clearly the council occupying part of the premises means we forgo a potential income stream, but by occupying what had been a predominantly vacant property for a number of years does deliver significant savings, and has also been a stimulus to attracting interest in the remainder of the property.”

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