Saturday, 17 February 2018

Knowle relocation project: moving into a 'modern, flexible working environment to save on running costs' - which a cash-strapped council then has to sell

This reasoning sounds rather familiar:
"The initial move to the new headquarters was made to save on running costs..." and to "get the benefits from this modern, flexible working environment."

But it actually does not come from East Devon, but from Northampton:

Northamptonshire plans sale of HQ to generate cash

Dominic Brady 16 Feb 18

Northamptonshire County Council will sell its £53m headquarters to free up cash following after it issued a section 114 notice earlier this month. The notice, issued on 2 February 2018, was the first of its kind for nearly 20 years and meant the council stopped spending on all non-statutory services.

Since these severe spending restrictions were implemented, Northamptonshire has been scrambling to secure more funds to provide important services in the face of a predicted overspend of £21.1m. Consequently, the council has decided to sell its headquarters, which it only moved into in October 2017, in order to use the capital receipts to fund the delivery of services. However, it will continue to occupy the property, leasing the office back from the new owners.

The initial move to the new headquarters was made to save on running costs caused by the council being split between 12 different sites and the council claims that this move “is already saving £53,000 a week”.

A spokesperson for Northamptonshire County Council said: “Under a sale and leaseback arrangement the office complex would be sold as freehold with the council leasing it back for a period of 25 years or more. The council will remain in One Angel Square so will still get the benefits from this modern, flexible working environment at the heart of the town centre.”

Concerns over Northamptonshire’s financial management began in January 2018 when communities secretary Sajid Javid sent in an inspector to investigate whether the county was failing to comply with its best value duty.  The county council’s financial problems have come as a result of reduced funding from central government as well as a increased pressure on adult social care services, caused by an ageing population.

Northampton’s misfortune has sparked fears that more councils may also suffer from section 114 orders in the future. At the time of the section 114 notice, a CIPFA spokesperson said: “We are likely to see other councils reach this point in two or three years if the government does not provide a more sustainable framework for local government finances.”

Northamptonshire plans sale of HQ to generate cash | Public Finance

This has been covered here before:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "a cash-strapped local authority is considering selling its new headquarters"

And it's a story that isn't going to go away, with things developing over the past week and further reports:
Northamptonshire County Council to sell new £53m HQ - BBC News
Northamptonshire council boss resists resignation calls - BBC News
Northamptonshire council faces up to cost of effective bankruptcy | UK news | The Guardian

With a particularly interesting piece from the Architects Journal: 
Cash-strapped Northamptonshire Council to sell its new BDP-designed HQ | News | Architects Journal

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