DURHAM County Council plans to sell its new £50m headquarters have been condemned as "farcical" by the authority’s Labour opposition leader.

Councillor Carl Marshall was responding to a report calling on Cabinet to agree next week to the sale of the building to Durham University.

The previous Labour-run administation had planned on moving from its current home at County Hall on Aykley Heads into the newly-built facility at The Sands in Durham city centre.

Read more: Durham County Council could end up selling £50m HQ to Durham University

However, the new cross-party administration is now in talks to sell the new base to Durham University and build a new civic centre at Aykley Heads - along with office accommodation in Stanley.

Cllr Marshall said: “The plans to build a third or fourth HQ on Aykley Heads rips up the ambitious plans Labour had to grow the economy and create 6,000 jobs.

The Northern Echo:

“We are going to be paying back millions of pounds in government grants that we have had on buildings there already, as well as reduced income from business rates.

“That, obviously, then removes opportunities for a future generation of young people. There’s a lot of time and effort that went into putting those plans into place.

“The thought of building two new council HQs on that site rips those plans up. It can never be delivered in the same way.”

He added: “It’s a complete waste of everyone’s time and money. They have an HQ that is already built. It is there. Everyone can see it. The thought of building a third or even fourth HQ is absolutely farcical.

“Everyone can see this is a political stunt from a quite chaotic coalition who are clinging onto power.

Read more: Labour responds to Durham's Tory MPs in row over County Hall

“They should be focused on tackling this Tory cost-of-living crisis that is hammering families across County Durham and concentrate their efforts on that.

“Effectively they are ripping up the jobs on Aykley Heads is not going to anything to help – in fact it’s going to exacerbate that cost of living crisis created by the Tory Government.”

Council chiefs argue that, if agreed, the latest plan will "provide a number of economic benefits, with the costs of the construction and the alternative accommodation strategy being more than offset by the proceeds of the sale of the building".

The proposed sale of The Sands building to the university would be subject to planning approval, with a decision by the County Planning Committee expected in July.

In line with previous reports, it is also recommended that should the university not progress with the purchase within a specified time period, the council should occupy the building.

Cllr Richard Bell, Cabinet member for finance, said: “The driving factors behind this work are ensuring that we provide good value for money for the authority and that any decisions we make are in the best interests of the county’s residents.”

The review also recommended that a business case be developed to look at alternative options for office accommodation and civic space for the authority.

The business case considered a range of buildings around the county, including a number in private ownership as well as those already within the council’s portfolio.

It was found that no one building could provide suitable or adequate accommodation to meet the requirements for civic space.

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, added: “The Joint Administration has delivered on its promise to review decisions about the county council’s headquarters that were made by Labour.

"The report that will go to Cabinet sets out an ambitious vision for the county council’s core estate. Not only do the recommendations make excellent economic and environmental sense, but they will also provide a boost to business and support our ambition to level up across the whole county.

“The proposals for Aykley Heads are very exciting and will deliver the right combination of high quality office accommodation for the county council, along with contemporary, flexible civic space.

"This approach will be much more appropriate for the way that we will all be working in the future, and the much needed conference facilities will provide an added attraction to business, helping to attract firms to the site and generating an additional income stream for Durham County Council.

"In addition, Durham University will be able to use the building at the Sands to nurture the next generation of business leaders right here in the county, who will drive our economic success in the long term.

“Meanwhile, we will also deliver on our promise to support communities throughout County Durham. The Stanley Customer Access Point has been neglected for far too long and its refurbishment will provide a much needed economic boost to the town, and can be a catalyst for attracting more inward investment to the area.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054