THE cost of a "self-indulgent" County Hall refurbishment has been questioned again by a councillor who says it has now reached more than £1 million.

Councillor Tom Wells revealed the increase at a council meeting, asking Coun Stephen Clee to confirm if the £620,000 cost of council chamber refurbishment had risen to £847,000.

He also pointed out that improvements to members' areas have risen from £215,000 to £282,000, putting the total refurbishment costs at £1.129 million.

Now, £103,000 will be spent on an audiovisual system, rather than the £50,000 predicted, which will include an electronic voting system in the chamber and the ability to project the faces of speakers on to a big screen.

The costs also include the money for two LCD TVs costing £2,200 and three members' meeting rooms.

However, the council is trying to find £25 million it can cut from its budgets.

Speaking after the meeting, Coun Wells said he believed the old figure of £620,000 was still being used.

He said: "At a time when the council is making savage cuts across key areas of services, it's indefensible to be allocating £1 million to the council chamber. I would argue that it's unacceptable and self-indulgent."

However, a county council spokesman said that, while the figures were correct, the overall office rationalisation programme was still within its original budget.

The audio-visual system costs had risen because it was necessary to put in the ability to broadcast council meetings on the web.

The refurbishment is part of a programme which has seen the council bring all its headquarters staff onto one site and raise money for the improvement works by selling off redundant buildings in the city centre.

Coun Clee, Worcestershire County Council's cabinet member for corporate services, said no money had been spent on the council chamber for 30 years and he promised to give members information sheets setting out the costs.

He said: "We've been able to add to the coffers by selling off redundant buildings and modernise the offices with 21st century technology that supports new ways of working.

"Also, by having officers on the same campus, we save them having to drive into the city for meetings, which saves time and is more sustainable."

It is hoped the improved County Hall facilities could be used to generate income through meetings, weddings and conferences.