TOWN Hall bosses say a new £300,000 heating system will help make South Tyneside Council both leaner and greener, despite opposition over the spending.
The old system, which was installed in South Shields Town Hall during the 1980s, had been deemed as expensive and inefficient, costing at least £41,000 to run and maintain each year.
But council officials say the new heaters, which have been phased in over the last few weeks, will make annual savings of £10,000 and pay for themselves within 25 years.
The work comes at a time when the authority must find £20m of savings over the coming financial year, and has been questioned in some quarters.
However, the authority says that as well as cutting annual running costs, the new system will also be more environmentally-friendly. A spokesman said: “The existing heating system at South Shields Town Hall was installed in the 1980s.
“It is unreliable, inefficient and needs regular maintenance, all of which make it very expensive to run.
“An ‘invest-to-save’ proposal to replace the heating system was included in the council’s medium-term financial plan, which was agreed by elected members at a meeting of the borough council early last year.
“Works to install the new system are almost complete.
“The system’s increased efficiency will enable the council to make significant savings on energy costs, whilst reducing its carbon emissions.”
Council officials say the previous heating system was classed as beyond repair, as the casing had split and the pressurisation system and controls failed on numerous occasions, while they could also no longer obtain certain parts.
Not everyone agrees with the spending on the new system, when the council is having to make cutbacks to create savings of £20m in the next financial year.
Independent Alliance councillor Ahmed Khan believes the old system could have lasted longer.
He said: “In an age where there are old people struggling to afford to pay for their heating, and employees are being made redundant to save on costs, I think £310,000, which is just an approximate cost, is a very lavish spend.
“I am sure the old system could have lasted a while longer.
“As for the system paying for itself within the next 25 years, I think that is ridiculous.
“It sounds good on paper, but 25 years is a very long time indeed.”