CONTENTIOUS plans to move the district council’s customer service centre to the Royal Pump Rooms have been given the go-ahead, despite staunch opposition.
Members of Warwick District Council’s Cabinet met to discuss arrangements for the relocation of its customer services department to the existing Pump Room shop when they met on Wednesday (July 5).
And after much debate, in which the town hall was put forward as an alternative, councillors decided to unanimously approve officer’s recommendations and support the Pump Room move.
They also agreed to look at alternative locations for the shop – including potentially installing it in one of the current empty shops in the town centre.
The move comes as the council seeks a temporary base for its homelessness officer and housing services department after moving out of its Riverside House headquarters in June.
The intended plans sparked a online petition – ‘Hands off our Pump Rooms’ – started by The Leamington Society earlier this year, who are opposed to the historic building being used for purposes other than recreation and the arts. The petition has attracted 2,000 signatures – doubling from 1,000 in just the last week.
Riverside House, on Milverton Hill, was the base for 350 council staff but due to a combination of its size, running costs and more flexible working following the pandemic, it was no longer considered fit for purpose by WDC.
Staff will be temporarily relocated to Satisford in Warwick and Leamington Town Hall, with a customer service area set up for face-to-face services at the Pump Rooms.
The Leamington Society believe this will not only alter the appearance of the historic building inside and out but also deprive local artists and authors, The Leamington History Group and The Leamington Society the opportunity to sell their wares.
And the Leamington Society are not alone in their opposition.
Speaking at the Cabinet meeting, Coun Alan Boad urged his fellow councillors to consider a move to the town hall instead. He said it may not be the “gold-plated standard” but we were living through a time of austerity and it would do the job.
He added that it was the cheaper way to do it as the face-to-face services could move into one of the rooms in the town hall at no extra expense, while the cost to move to the Pump Rooms had doubled over the last six months, due to inflation, from £200,000 to £410,000.
Coun Andrew Day, who was leader of WDC when plans to move to the Pump Rooms were first mooted back in February, said that at the time all cross party groups on the council had agreed to the plans.
He said a move from Milverton to The Parade was the best option strategically as it was where residents congregated and where transport networks were.
Coun Jassica Harrison, the portfolio holder for the project, said the town hall had been dismissed as an option as there was not adequate space there without it being disjointed and it was less accessible to the public than the Pump Rooms, especially considering those accessing these services were the most vulnerable members of the community.