A £40million deal to create a new council HQ at a north-east football ground moved forward yesterday when politicians backed the idea.
Under the proposals – described by co-leader Richard Thomson as “visionary” – the authority will buy Inverurie Loco Works FC’s Harlaw Park ground and build a new civic base on the site.
The current headquarters, Woodhill House, is in Aberdeen, making it the only council base in Scotland outside its own boundaries.
Opposition councillors had accused Mr Thomson and his colleagues of trying to rush a deal through and a cross-party organisation was formed to look at the scheme in detail.
But the group yesterday presented a recommendation which broadly backed the Harlaw Park scheme to a meeting of full council.
Mr Thomson said: “[This] was sent to a working group for consideration and that was a shrewd decision. We walked around the business case and gave the tyres a good kick.”
Alliance opposition leader Jim Gifford added: “This is a starting point on the development of all these projects. I would describe the process as tortuous, but we have got to a good place.”
There was a broad consensus around the chamber at Woodhill House that a detailed business case should be explored, but concerns about the process were also raised.
Liberal Democrat leader, Karen Clark, described the way the proposals were brought forward as “a shambles” and warned that officers must demonstrate how the new office would save taxpayers money.
Operating costs at Woodhill House have spiralled recently and large areas of the building are lying empty. Council property chief, Allan Whyte, estimated constructing a smaller, more energy-efficient HQ in Inverurie would save £445,000 a year.
But independent Fraserburgh councillor Ian Tait spoke out against the scheme. He said: “It’s totally unnecessary. The argument that Aberdeenshire shouldn’t have an HQ in Aberdeen City and should spend millions to move is incredible.”
Stonehaven councillor Wendy Agnew added: “Where the HQ is based is of no relevance to people – it’s about the delivery of services.
“People don’t want councillors building ivory towers.”
In the end, councillors backed the principle of moving the headquarters to Inverurie by 50 votes to four.