Herefordshire does not have the money to bring Hereford’s Shirehall back into use, so has put off a decision on what to do with it.

The council had put the cost of bringing the currently disused grade II* building, on the city’s St Peter’s Square, back into full use at £7.5 million.

But at a meeting of senior councillors on Thursday, cabinet member for procurement and assets Coun Gemma Davies said: “It would be irresponsible of us to take this decision without seriously considering the financial pressure that Herefordshire Council are currently facing.

“This is why an option has been put forward to await the Town Hall asset transfer and results of the corporate asset review.”

The nearby Town Hall in St Owen Street, which Herefordshire Council is currently attempting to transfer to its tenant Hereford City Council, also faces a multi-million-pound repair bill.


Backing the proposal to defer, head of health and adult wellbeing Coun Pauline Crockett said the cost of renovating the Shirehall was “quite shocking”, but added: “We do not have a quick fix.”

The council “must protect this huge wonderful building for our future generations”, head of housing and community Coun Ange Tyler said. “My worry is that if we don't start maintenance, it will just deteriorate even more.”

Cabinet member for finance Coun Liz Harvey said she was “extremely excited at the potential which our designs and plans offer for providing a significant civic building in the centre of our city”.

But she warned: “We have too much uncertainty facing us right now to make the commitment that I would love us to be able to make to take those designs forward.

“These uncertainties, particularly as regards the funding needed to support the improvements in our children’s services, means it is prudent to pause at this point to understand the competing pressures we will face over the next few months.”

Referring to the building's former courts role, Council leader Coun David Hitchiner said: “It’s vitally important for us as a county that we have a judicial facility such as this.

“It's not convenient to have to travel to Worcester particularly for people who are struggling to have access to justice.”

Conservative group leader Coun Jonathan Lester commented: “There’s no question that it has to be kept and renovated. But the longer the delay, the more the cost.”

True Independents leader Coun Bob Matthews said: “All councils over the years should be ashamed they have allowed these historic buildings to deteriorate into the state they are in today.

“We must do everything possible to get this building and the others back in working order.

For the Green Party, Coun Toni Fagan said: “we see that there is no choice but to put this decision on hold while we try to find alternative funding.”

Independents for Herefordshire spokesman Coun Peter Jinman added: “No one would wish to see this building in this condition. But we do not see how we can spend this money at the current time.”

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Coun Davies said that if the option to delay a decision was taken the time would be used “to pursue other avenues of funding in the meantime”, adding: “There are lots of opportunities from central government for last-minute projects, for which we will be ready.”

The former staff parking at the Shirehall will, meanwhile, “be reviewed to consider if it can be made available for public pay-and-display parking seven days a week, until a formal decision on the future of the site can be made”, Coun Hitchiner said.

The motion to delay a decision was passed unanimously.

The council is forecast to make a net overspend of £8.7 million in the current financial year, and anticipates this figure will worsen in future years without help from central Government.

The cabinet meeting did not agree any measures to achieve future improvements in the council’s financial situation.

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