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Council unveils £39 million office savings and regeneration plans
Release date: Tue, 26/06/2012
Plans are being unveiled today by Bristol City Council to shrink the number of its council offices from 35 to just nine or ten over the next 3 to 4 years.
A report to Cabinet next week will set out how these plans will save an estimated £39 million over the following 25 years, as well as improving services to the public, kick-starting regeneration, providing new construction jobs, and potentially providing sites for much needed new schools, nurseries and housing.
Potential sites for schools and educational facilities include the Woodward Centre in Fishponds, offices in Beam Street, Lawrence Hill and several other sites around Bristol. These are currently being investigated as viable options for a change of use.
The proposals retain the Council House on College Green as the authority’s headquarters, and the home of its democratic core - whilst also opening up the building to provide customer services for the first time. The new customer service point will be around two to three times the size of Phoenix Court, which has been extremely popular and at times over-subscribed by customers.
The council is looking at a range of larger, more efficient office accommodation in a central location. Amongst the options being considered is a conversion of the A Bond warehouse to offices. A Bond is already owned by the Council. The new buildings will address issues of accessibility and provide improved access for disabled staff and public visitors alike. It is important to note that these proposals affect the council’s office accommodation only - not care homes, youth centres etc.
Cllr Dr Jon Rogers, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member responsible for transforming council services said:
“These proposals do so much more than saving £39 million plus of tax payers’ money. They will also create a much improved service to the public, contribute to creation of new jobs in Bristol, provide sites for badly-needed new schools or nurseries, create opportunities for new houses, reduce our carbon footprint, and help regenerate central/south central Bristol.
“The plans are built around saving money by spending much less on out of date, wasteful buildings and freeing us from expensive leases. These plans will require an investment up front to achieve these savings over the next thirty years, this is the council acting in the long-term interests of the city, just as families take the long-term view when they buy their home and take out a mortgage.
“This is how you show leadership in rising to a challenge, and in making the most of opportunities.”
The plans are built around saving money by spending much less on out of date, wasteful buildings, including for example 25 year old temporary buildings at Wellington Road offices in Easton, and by acknowledging that other existing public spending reductions will already reduce the number of staff overall, and thus the number needing office accommodation over years to come.
The plans will make a significant contribution to reducing the council’s carbon footprint; cutting an estimated £300,000 per annum, from reduced travel costs between buildings, and reduced energy bills due to the transition to more energy efficient buildings.
These proposals include maintaining the Council’s earlier investment in South Bristol over coming years by maintaining our lease at Parkview Office Campus in Hengrove, opposite the new Hengrove Business Park, for its full duration.
The details of the plans show the Council moving out of 28 buildings, which are scheduled for a range of future uses, including:
· Possible community asset transfers, or change of use, where a local community group can bid to take over the building from which to run important community-led support services.
· Selling the newly vacated office buildings to local businesses, or for the sites to be sold, cleared and built on as possible development opportunities, each possibly creating new jobs. These may include for example, the Wellington Road Depot building in Easton.
· Selling the buildings to be converted into housing as they are, or again for the sites to be cleared and redeveloped. These include for example Redcross Street in Old Market, the former scientific service building.
· Possibly turning the emptied buildings into much-needed schools or nurseries.
As these 5,000 existing council staff would be relocated into larger, more efficient premises, there would be a second regeneration opportunity with significant positive impacts on local shops, restaurants etc.
Should the proposals be agreed at the Council’s Cabinet on 4th July 2012, then detailed negotiations regarding buildings will proceed over coming months, with a deal for the way forward most likely signed and work begun in around six months. The programme overall will take 3-4 years to complete.