Over £4 million being spent on revamp of Dudley Council House
Over £4 million is being spent on a crucial revamp of Dudley Council House which councillors say will improve disabled access.
The works are said to include automated doors, an upgrade to the existing passenger lift and improved general access inside the corridors.
An upgrade to the council chamber sound system will also be included after residents raised concerns over being unable to hear councillors at council meetings - comments which sparked a heated exchange between two councillors at last month’s full council meeting.
In total £4,081,718 will be spent on improvements to the main interior, roof, mechanical and engineering and the sound system as well as asbestos removal.
A statement from a council scrutiny document detailing the works to be undertaken for disabled access listed the following:
Improve signage to the disabled entrance at the basement
Automate specific doors to ease access and replace traditional openings with sliding doors to improve the use of spaces
Investigate and upgrade the existing passenger lift from the basement to the 1st floor
Replace worn stair nosings to all staircases
Install motion sensor lighting to corridors to ensure lift areas are lit
Building adaptations to improve access from the corridor adjacent safe room to offices including new stairs and hand-railing.
However, the council says due to budget restraints a new accessible passenger lift from the rear members' car park to access the ground and first floor levels and, possibly, the public gallery as well as new platform lifts from the basement to the first floor will not be included.
As part of the improvement works, £130,000 has also been earmarked to improve the sound system within the council chambers.
Speaking at last month’s full council meeting Councillor Simon Phipps, cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise and the person responsible for the improvement works, said: “We are currently prioritising those works that are necessary for the disability adaptations to ensure this council house is accessible.”
“A member of the public came up to me recently and said 'You’re the only person that I could properly hear during that', and I think it’s a valid point that we need to make all of these rooms accessible.”
But asking for the situation to be improved immediately, Councillor Elaine Taylor said: “I have not heard hardly anything that has been said from the far side of the chamber or our side of the chamber and it needs addressing now, not next year. It’s been on the cards for nearly nine years and it’s still not been addressed.”
According to council documents, all works are expected to be completed by August 2024.