Leicester City Council set to spend £800,000 refitting Poundstretcher store
A Poundstretcher store is to be taken over by Leicester City Council when it quits its crumbling 1970s headquarters.
The authority has announced it intends to spend £800,000 refitting the discount shop, in the city centre's Granby Street, as its new customer service centre.
As previously reported in the Mercury, the council has to move out of the New Walk Centre tower blocks, which are structurally unsound, and has been searching for places to relocate about 1,250 staff.
Yesterday, city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby announced the council will have vacated the buildings within 12 months.
As well as taking on the Granby Street property, he said the council would turn Attenborough House, in Charles Street, the former home of the Riley's Snooker Club, into its new headquarters.
Sir Peter said: "We have no choice but to leave New Walk Centre, which, I have to say, has become a squalid place to work, and for our customer service centre, we are moving to Poundstretcher.
"It is a prominent and accessible high street location and by moving there we will be able to get many more people into that area, which will help the businesses there."
About 13,000 visits are made to the New Walk customer centre each month
Sir Peter would not say how much the lease of the building would cost, but said it was a competitive deal.
Sir Peter said when he became mayor he had inherited a £30 million proposal for the council to either build a new base or carry out a costly refurbishment of an existing building. He said his plans to refit the council-owned Attenborough House would cost £3 million.
He said: "What I am announcing will cost a fraction of the £30 million set aside and I feel that money should be invested into improving the city centre and our economic action plan to bring jobs to the city."
About 500 members of staff will transfer to Attenborough House, with others being dispersed to other council-owned city centre offices, such as the town hall, as the authority reduces its head count.
The demolition of New Walk Centre will take place in 2014, cost about £2 million and last 12 months.
The large site will then be marketed to developers for potential leisure, office, retail or housing use.
Sir Peter said he was not ruling out a return there in the future to lease part of any possible office complex and said one unnamed firm had expressed an interest in developing its headquarters there.
Tory city councillor Ross Grant said: "Peter Soulsby is being a bit disingenuous by comparing his new plan to what was the most extreme and expensive option being considered by the councils before him.
"What he has come up with also appears to be an expensive temporary solution. Why is he renting yet another property when we have the old post office on Bishop Street, which would lend itself to customer service use?
"He has recently moved the tourist information centre to a property Starbucks left because the rent was so high. That has left the old property opposite the town hall empty so why has he not used that?"
Poundstretcher property director Tim Shattock confirmed the firm was seeking another premises in Leicester but said: "Discussions are at a sensitive stage so I can't say much about it."