We have an all-party Members Review Panel that meets regularly to scrutiinise progress on the refurbishment of the Town Hall Extension and Central Library, as well as looking at the changes in working practices being trialled at 1st Street in preparation for the return to the Town Hall, although the changes are already bringing us significant benefits in improved efficiency and effectiveness.
Yesterday the panel had the opportunity to tour the Extension and the Library and look at the work in progress. Going inside the Library was a bit of a shock as there are currently no floors and you can see all the way from the basement floor to the top of the Reading Room dome. Some of the old floors were so thin that they were almost literally being held up by the book stacks and being kept stable by the books themselves hence the necessity of new floors. What you now can see is the vastness of the space, something that will still be possible post restoration as the ground floor will be fully open ( apart from the pillars holding up the new Reading Room floor ) and as visitors come into the Library they will be able to see right across this space. We went from there into the Town Hall Extension and the spaces that will become the new Customer Service Centre and the new lending library are now beginning to take shape, as is the basement level link between the lending library and the Town Hall. On the 8th floor we saw how much lighter open plan offices are being created, one of the reasons the Extension will be able to accommodate far more people when the work is finished, allowing the City Council to vacate a number of other rented offices. When it's all done we will have guaranteed at least another sixty years of useful life for two very important listed buildings in a way that vastly improves access to services for Manchester residents and for visitors to the city, that improves working conditions for Council staff, that makes space for other public service providers in the Town Hall, and that allows the Council to be far more efficient.