Merton council hits back at ‘indefensible’ £230K office revamp

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

Merton Labour has hit back at claims it spent £230,000 on refurnishing the party’s group and leaders offices, including £10,000 on chairs, calling it “whataboutery” and “irrelevant”.

At a council meeting on Wednesday night, Liberal Democrat councillor Simon McGarth called the cost of the revamp amid a cost of living crisis “indefensible”.

He claimed it included £10,000 for new carpets, £5,000 for a new tea point and £10,000 for new chairs some of them £640 each.

In a written response, the council’s cabinet member for finance, councillor Billy Christie, said this was the first stage of revamping the civic offices in Morden.

He wrote initial improvements to the first and seventh floors of the building would “provide a showcase for the Merton office of the future which managers and staff can road test before deciding the configuration and layout for each department”.

He added the refurbishment works would then be rolled out to other floors of the building and said the Civic Centre offices were “tired and in need of refurbishment”.

But Cllr McGarth was not happy with the response and challenged Cllr Christie to come with him to meet residents in the council leader’s ward to “knock on doors to see whether they think, when their electricity is going up, gas going up, food going up and council tax going up, that spending £230,000 on the Labour group offices and the leaders office is a good use of their money.”

Cllr Christie did not deny the improvements were made to the leader’s office but hit back, saying: “I have spend a lot of time with the leader knocking on residents’ doors already and I know they feel Merton Council should be run professionally as we deliver services to 200,000 residents with a £500 million gross budget. I think they would expect that our staff are able to operate in a modern professional office.

“I think this Lib Dem whataboutery about spending money on our professional operation is actually irrelevant and I am sure residents in the leader’s ward would agree with me.”

Pictured top: The car park at Merton Civic Centre in Morden (Picture: Google Street View)

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