HARTLEPOOL Borough Council is to investigate the possibility of returning the town’s register office to its former home after it moved as part of budget cuts.
The register office in Raby Road was moved by the council several years ago, with people having to go to Hartlepool Civic Centre to register births and deaths, while couples can also tie the knot in a committee room at the civic centre in Victoria Road.
But the council is now to explore whether it is feasible for the service to return to the purpose-built office after a review of the registration service’s accommodation.
Officers recommended that the council relocate the service from its current accommodation in the civic centre where it has been since March 2011, to a more private area at the rear of the building.
The estimated cost of the move to create a new reception area and other building costs would total £68,000 for the council.
But members of the Finance and Policy Committee questioned whether it would cost any more to move back into the old building.
Coun Marjorie James said: “I think we should accept we got it wrong and put the register office back where it was.”
Coun Geoff Lilley agreed, saying: “It was just right and it was a nice place for people to get married or have a civil partnership.
“It had an ambience and it was the best place, without a shadow of a doubt.”
Dave Stubbs, the council’s chief executive, warned the cost of moving back to a separate office would be much higher than what was being proposed.
He said: “The staff costs that go with that would be enormous. It would have to have staff all the time.
“There were a lot of occasions previously when staff had nothing to do.”
Coun Allison Lilley said she believed a move back to the register office could be feasible as its staff numbers had been reduced since it closed and as more births and deaths are now being registered on Teesside because of hospital changes.
The committee chairman, Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “From a dignity point of view, when people are suffering from grief, we want people to come to a separate place.
“We don’t want them to be in the foyer where they are currently because of the large amounts of other customers.
“We need to explore the option of the former register office given the discussion of members.”
A report on the issue will be produced for a future meeting of the committee.