PEMBROKESHIRE County Council (PCC), “blinded by a bargain price” has wasted £2.4m on the “bottomless pit” Cherry Grove former tax office building, members of PCC’s full council heard last Thursday, December 10.

A Notice of Motion, previously submitted to PCC’s Cabinet, by Hubberston county councillor Viv Stoddart asked for a comprehensive report on the costs to the Authority of its purchase and ongoing ownership of Haverfordwest’s Cherry Grove.

The revenues, public protection, electoral services departments as well as the register office have moved to the building from County Hall, Tower Hill, Milford Haven Town Hall and Goodwick parrog.

At last Thursday’s meeting it was recommended that PCC received the additional information sought, reporting back to Cabinet after it is considered by the council’s yet to meet Strategic Asset Management group.

Members heard purchase costs amounted to £631,600, empty property business rates cost £25,778, staff relocation cost £11,685, with refurbishment costs projected at £1,778,315.

Speaking at last Thursday’s meeting, Cllr Stoddart said: “Cherry Grove is an unloved and unlovely building bought by this council in 2011 from an offshore tax haven company; even then the taxpayer didn’t get any benefit from this price; that has set the tone for what has gone on since.

“The council was blinded by a bargain price and afterwards then had to think what to do with it.”

Cllr Stoddart said she had previously objected to the purchase, but was told it would improve efficiency.

“We’ve now spent £2.4m, a very expensive way of improving efficiency.

“In 2015, this sorry saga goes on, Jamie Adams said the building represented good value for money and would be put to good use.

“The refurbishment is three times the initial price; we’re cutting front-line services and spending cash on this bottomless pit.”

Tenby South county councillor Mike Evans described Cherry Grove as “another council folly,” adding an open market valuation would see members “realise how much money had been poured down the drain”.

He estimated a value of some 20 per cent of what was spent.

Councillor Paul Miller: “We are going to seek to justify this building with our satellite facilities around the county; I would much rather see a hub and spoke rather than a cluster to Haverfordwest.”

He warned that Cherry Grove’s purchase should not drive council policy.

Council Leader Jamie Adams said the opportunity for discussion “in the round” about Cherry Grove and other council assets was for the Strategic Asset Management (SAM) Group, meeting this week.

Councillor Mike Stoddart said the SAM had been first proposed last December, with the Wales Audit Office drawing attention to the time taken to reach fruition in its recent critical report of the council.

Members agreed to support the recommendation.