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More than £7m spent by Hertfordshire County Council maintaining empty buildings
More than £7 million of taxpayers’s money has been spent securing and maintaining empty buildings in Hertfordshire.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group said there is "no justification" for running up such a "staggering" bill while maintain the 29 empty properties across the county.
Council figures show that £7,024,456 has been spent maintaining these properties, which include former schools and fire stations.
County councillor, Stephen Giles-Medhurst, said: "Frankly, these figures are staggering and worrying, £7 million could have been far better spent on new schools or our roads.
"There can be no justification for keeping some sites empty and vacant for 10 years without either trying to sell them to the benefit of the council tax papers or bringing them back into community use."
The representative for central Watford and Oxhey said the Conservative administration could not hide behind the "smoke screen" of claiming that a better price might be offered if the facilities are kept.
He added: "They cannot justify mothballing sites for up to 10 years."
Amongst the costly vacant sites is the former Little Furze School, in South Oxhey, which was closed in 2004.
The school has run up a bill of £734,366 on security, maintenance and utilities.
Derrick Ashley, the Hertfordshire Countu Council cabinet member for Resources and Transformation, said: "The county council takes it properties responsibilities very seriously and takes a long term view on the need to retain properties, or not, sometimes.
"This is over many, many years because we’re very mindful of our needs and we don’t to be in the position in five or ten year’s time when we have disposed of a property and we suddenly find we are in need of a new school, for example."
The Conservative councillor said: "We have held onto properties for a very long time in some circumstances because we wanted to be absolutely certain before we dispose of anything that it’s not likely to be in need in the future.
"We try to be as careful as we can and, clearly, we have to pay to make sure the buildings are secure.
"Once we’ve established there is no future need we will dispose of the properties. The cost of acquiring properties in Hertfordshire is high."
The Bill Everett site, in North Watford, which the county council closed in 2009, has cost taxpayers £517,024 to secure and maintain.
Councillor Giles-Medhurst said: "Spending over £7 million on empty and vacant sites cannot be good value for anyone’s money - except the security companies.
"It seems that the Conservative county council lacks a strategic plan for its vacant sites on how to use or depose of then for the benefit for residents. They have lost the plot and that this is costing us money."
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