The difference in thinking this debate reveals has to do with our individual idea of what a “council” is and does. If I have a reference point it goes back to Keith Barrow’s ambitious plans for “his” council-owned trading company, ip&e, and what most people wouldn’t be aware of, the subsequent police report (2016), which said that whilst the initiative established a more “businesslike approach” to the council’s activities, it also removed those activities from the scrutiny of Shirehall, raising the question of whether that removal from scrutiny was intended or was “just” an unintended consequence.
Intentional or not, closing Shirehall and moving its activities to a town centre location achieves that same outcome – it removes those activities from immediate scrutiny because councillors are, at a stroke, removed to the periphery.
To me, Shirehall is more than a concrete symbol of 60’s brutalist architecture, it is actually a well designed building for its purpose, although that will obviously be open to debate, much of it based more on personal prejudice and vested interest than the £380,000-worth of detailed technical consultancy (freely available to anyone) that argues a solid case for the original decision to retain Shirehall but which later, as if by magic, turned itself – with a little help from directors of service – into the extensive set of documents that were – allegedly – the basis of the subsequent decision to demolish Shirehall.
The word “Shirehall”, as much as the building itself, represents all the established principles of local government that have been established by successive administrations over the years but which now, through straitened circumstances, finds itself threatened by what seems to me an endless search for ways to up-end those principles in pursuit of a bad dream.
Our directors of service had a wake-up call that argued that their case wasn’t as rock solid as first claimed (with much fanfare), and which advises them to watch for that bit of loose carpet at the head of the stairs. It’s not as if they haven’t been warned about it!