BROMSGROVE District Council leader Roger Hollingworth has defended the authority's move to a former Bromsgrove school.

Work to transform Parkside Middle School's former Stourbridge Road home into a one-stop shop of council services is set to begin on Monday, March 10. The building was originally earmarked for demolition in 2008, but was saved at the last minute when it was granted Grade II listed status.

It has been derelict ever since, but a review by both Bromsgrove District and Worcestershire County councils of public sector buildings within the town centre identified it as an ideal location to house both authority's services.

The £6.9 million project has been supported by both councils and received planning permission, with members highlighting the positive of breathing new life into a redundant building whilst freeing up the site of the district council’s current Burcot Lane home.

But the leader of the opposition Labour group, Councillor Luke Mallett, has hit out at the move, questioning "the prudence of borrowing and spending the remaining balances on funding it".

Describing it as an ill-considered deal, Coun Mallett also said he had calculated it would take 10 years to payback.

He said: "This comes at a time the Conservative leadership is gambling with the finances of the council, going from no debts to borrowing £15 million within three years.

"The evidence for Parkside is getting weaker by the day and the leader needs to call a halt and have a proper investigation by councillors before it is too late."

At the last full council meeting, held on February 26, Coun Mallett directly challenged the leader to think again about the project, within the budget debate.

After the meeting, Coun Hollingworth told the Advertiser the project is a good investment that will in fact take seven years to payback.

Coun Hollingworth said: "We are in a typical 1960s, 70s, building and maintenance costs us a lot of money.

"We are utilising a building that has been boarded up, and converting it so it can be used as a one-stop shop of services.

"What do Labour want us to do, leave it boarded up like the Drill Hall?

"They are saying we won't own the building, when in fact we will own half with the council council."

The leader added that, as long as everything stays on schedule, the building could open to the public in November or December.