Wakefield Council to close Grade I-listed County Hall offices due to heating costs

Wakefield Council is to temporarily close its historic headquarters building as it struggles to balance the books due to spiralling heating costs.

The local authority confirmed today that County Hall will shut next month in order to save on energy bills.

The Gothic Grade I-listed building, on Bond Street, was built in 1898 and houses the council chamber, departments and staff.

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Councillor Darren Byford, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for property, said: “We, like so many other councils, businesses and households, are having to manage the impact of spiralling inflation and soaring energy and fuel costs.

County HallCounty Hall
County Hall

“By reducing energy usage, we are able to cut our fuel bills, which will support us to maintain important services that our residents rely on, at a time of severe financial pressures.

“Whilst the building is closed, a low level of heating will be used throughout the winter months to ensure that this important historic building is well maintained.”

The Council is currently expected to overspend its budget by around £11m for this financial year.

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A recent financial report estimates that it will also have to contend with a budget gap of almost £85m over the next five years.

A statement from the Council says the decision to close the building was taken following a review to identify buildings that use the greatest amount of energy but have lower levels of occupancy.

The majority of Council services based at County Hall will be relocated to Wakefield Town Hall and the Wakefield One building nearby.

The Labour-run Council also warned that other publicly-owned buildings face temporary closure in a bid to cut energy consumption.

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Coun Byford added: “There are exceptionally difficult times ahead and demand for many of our services has never been higher.

“But please be reassured that we are doing all we can to minimise the impact of the financial crisis and will continue to support those most in need.”

Coun Tony Homewood, Leader of Wakefield Council’s Conservative Group, said: “This comes a surprise and it is very disappointing.

“County Hall is the home of Wakefield Council.

“It is a beautiful old building but unfortunately it has a very antiquated heating system and costs a fortune to run.

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“We will see if this decision is justified as we move forward.

“Whether temporary becomes permanent, we will see in due course.

County Hall was home to the West Riding of Yorkshire County Council from 1898 until 1974, when new West Yorkshire County Council inherited the building.

Wakefield Council acquired County Hall in 1987 after the County Council was abolished the previous year.

The building underwent a major £3m refurbishment in 1991.