Friday, 16 March 2018

Knowle relocation project: and the Northamptonshire relocation project > "New council HQ could save taxpayers £xm in x years authority claims"

Other councils have done a spot of asset stripping to fund a white elephant:

Whether in West Dorset:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: What happens to a brand new £10m District Council HQ when councils merge?

Or in Northamptonshire:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: moving into a 'modern, flexible working environment to save on running costs' - which a cash-strapped council then has to sell
Futures Forum: Is your local council going bust? @ Radio 4
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "a cash-strapped local authority is considering selling its new headquarters"

And yet all sorts of promises of 'savings' had been promised some four years ago: 

New county council HQ could save Northamptonshire taxpayers £51m in 30 years authority claims

Artists' impressions of how the new county council headquarters will look at Angel Street.

Published: 30 September 2014

£51m of savings could be made over 30 years if Northamptonshire County Council closes its 12 headquarters and moves into ‘energy efficient’ new premises in the town centre, the authority claims.

A final business case for Project Angel, a bid to build new premises at derelict land off Angel Street and move 2,000 council staff into the town centre, is set to be approved by the county council’s cabinet next week.

The report states the authority’s current ageing stock of 12 headquarter buildings, which includes John Dryden House, Riverside House and the trading standards office at Wootton Park, cost £56,000-a-week to run and could bring in up to £13m if all of them are sold.

Cabinet member for finance Councillor Bill Parker (Con, Clover Hill) said: “The full business case clearly shows that this project will deliver very real hard cash benefits to taxpayers through avoiding escalating property costs and also creating income from the sale of our existing buildings.

“This, however, does not take into account the ‘softer’ benefits which moving all our staff into one building will create.

“There will clearly be benefits of more efficient working, less travel time between locations and operational benefits, but all of this is far harder to put a figure on at this stage”

New county council HQ could save Northamptonshire taxpayers £51m in 30 years authority claims - Northampton Chronicle and Echo

The East Devon Watch blog has been following this sorry tale: 


16 MAR 2016

Owl has been doing some digging about how Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) tanked and has come up with some worrying information which resonates somewhat worryingly with our own area …

Remember that NCC built a new HQ and almost immediately had to attempt to buy its way out of debt by selling it and renting it back to themselves.

The new NCC HQ (One Angel Square) was originally going to cost £34 million, then £40 million, then £43 million, then £52 million, then £53 million. It was eventually delivered ‘under budget’!

But as costs rose, the size of the building was reduced by 20%. So effectively the cost doubled!

NCC built their new HQ to replace 12 existing buildings. Those 12 buildings were claimed to be costing £53,000 a week to run. It was later claimed that the new building would save £52,000 a week in running costs. Work that one out!

As soon as the new building opened, staff complained about the lack of space and the 20 minutes every morning sorting out their ‘hot desks’.

£53m project combines 12 council offices into one building | Anglia - ITV News

Some FAQs from the early consultations:

“Q4: Isn’t this just building up debt for the county when it can ill afford it?

A4: This is a spend to save scheme. The county council will continue to take
opportunities like these to invest in new infrastructure which will ultimately reduce the debt. By doing nothing the debt position will get worse than undertaking the new build.

Q5: How can the council afford to build a huge new office block on the one
hand but on the other hand plead poverty and cut services or turn off street
lights? Couldn’t this money have been better used to protect services?

A5: It is by taking this step that will help us protect services. By maintaining the status quo and spending increasing amounts of money to maintain and operate old buildings that are no longer fit for purpose the council would be forced to redirect costs from front line services. By taking these proactive decisions now and saving building operating costs in the future it will allow those savings to either reduce debt or be spent on front line services.

Q6: Surely there’s a less expensive solution. Why don’t you convert one of
your buildings – like JDH – so it can take more people? That would be a far
cheaper solution.

A6: The other options have all been professionally evaluated. By looking at all the costs and benefits of the different options a new build at the Angel Street came out as the best option.”

(page 149)

Which all looks just a bit too familiar…

A new council HQ? Oh, oh – this looks VERY familiar! | East Devon Watch

With more blog entries from the last couple of days here:
Insolvent (Tory) council – the blame game begins! | East Devon Watch
Northamptonshire County Council 'should be scrapped' - BBC News

And here: 
Damning report on culture at insolvent Tory council | East Devon Watch
INSPECTOR'S VERDICT: Two new councils should be created in Northamptonshire by 2020... all others should be abolished - Northampton Chronicle and Echo

And here: 
Bailing out Northamptonshire County Council would be “a reward for failure” | East Devon Watch
Scrap Northamptonshire county council, inspectors say | Society | The Guardian

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