TOWN Hall chiefs are unable to confirm how much the new council offices will cost – but insist the development will be accounted for within the overall £130 million Time Square budget.

Time Square – the authority’s flagship town centre regeneration scheme – is planned to officially open in early 2020.

It will feature a Cineworld multiplex cinema, permanent market hall, council offices and a public square.

The authority has confirmed the estimated cost of the scheme remains at £130 million but insists there is no separate budget for the new offices.

The officer responsible for the delivery of the offices has recently left the authority.

But the council says it will have no impact on the timescales for the project.

A spokesman said: “Construction of the new office building is well under way and progressing to plan.

“We expect to move into the new council offices in spring 2020 and around 1,200 staff will be based there.

“There is no separate budget for the council offices, it is accounted for within the overall Time Square programme budget.

“The council offices, the new market building, as well as the cinema, leisure and restaurants element of the scheme is all part of one single-build contract being delivered by Vinci.”

But Cllr Bob Barr, leader of the town’s Liberal Democrats, admits he is slightly puzzled by the situation.

He said: “Given the level of investment in Time Square and the town centre, it seems strange not to set, and announce, a proper capital budget and fit-out plan for the council offices that ensures we have a building fit for purpose, fit for the future and that the whole town can be proud of.

“Warrington’s town centre transformation is one of the most important investments in the town ever.

“It has been a long project, started under a Liberal Democrat-led administration.

“I am very pleased that, after a long delay, Warrington will get the town centre improvements it needs.

“These will attract both residents and visitors from further away, which will help trigger a broader regeneration of the town.

“It is vital to ensure that what is delivered is fit for the future.

“So, cheeseparing at this stage on the council office fit-out would be a false economy.

“The town is short of meeting rooms and a conference facility which could be in high demand, given the centrality of Warrington, when not needed by the council.

“The council itself could meet in the conference hall, admitting as many of the public as wish to see our proceedings.

“Not to invest in flexible meeting space in the excellent new building will be a major error.”

Despite no separate budget being set for the offices, Cllr Russ Bowden, who will formally be elected as council leader on December 17, has defended the Time Square business case.

He says: “The business case is robust, it stacks up.

“Time Square obviously stalled in the previous administration and when we came in, in 2011, we were looking at a far smaller project than what we have now.

“We took the decision to proceed with Time Square.

“All the big calls we have had to make, we have made the right calls – and Time Square is definitely one of those.”