A COUNCIL leader has defended plans to buy new offices, claiming the existing ones "are not fit for purpose".

Virginia Taylor is leader of Eden District Council, which is proposing to buy new premises in Penrith.

They will save the council money in the long term and mean that it can work alongside other partners and agencies, she said.

Former council leader Kevin Beaty is against the idea, claiming decisions should be put on hold until a devolution deal - which could do away with the council - has been agreed. He also thinks it would add to existing financial pressures which have been compounded by coronavirus.

At the moment the council is based in two buildings: the Town Hall and Mansion House. It is proposing to moving into office buildings on the corner of Portland Place.

"A single site has been on the council radar for 12 to 15 years. The two existing buildings are not fit for purpose," said Mrs Taylor. "Attempts have been made but the buildings cannot be made more accessible. They cost a fortune to heat and emit ludicrous amounts of carbon."

Regarding Mr Beaty's claim about waiting until devolution decisions had been made, Mrs Taylor said: "This is exactly the reason we need it. We need local government services and jobs in Penrith. A new authority will want to set up a service centre in a good building.

"It will be at least three years before devolution changes happen on the ground."

Regarding expenditure, she said: "The existing building costs so much to run, the new one would pay for itself in a few years."

The building they are interested in was used until recently by the NHS. "We will spend money on refurbishing it so it's a zero carbon building," said Mrs Taylor.

The present venues have many limitations, she said. "At the moment we can't get everyone into work as they can't be made covid compliant.There are not enough loos."

She could not disclose the price of the building. "During the last administration, £2.3m was the amount voted for in the budget. This was earmarked for a single site and is waiting to be spent.

"If we were talking about a new build that would be very different. This involves very little work. We will have a lot of change from £2.3million."

It is hoped that other partners and agencies would also move into the building. "Other partners are interested in moving in too. We can really streamline services for the customer and create a one-stop shop," she said.

"We can move together towards unifying services with all the various agencies, not just local government."

Mr Beaty said: "My main reason for opposing it at the moment is that the council is under financial pressure and residents are under financial pressure. It should just be paused. I don't think the council has a need for a central office."