Here is the text of the response to some media coverage about why the County Council is investing in some sites, disbursing of others and importantly looking to provide better working conditions for staff with flexibilty, more space for others to use the Dorchester premises as a hub, better use of technology and upgrading the work place which as we all know is key to help staff serving front line service delivery. Work conditions are so important for us all.
Following Saturday’s headline about the refurbishment of County Hall Cllr Robin Cook, Cabinet member for organisational development and transformation , would like the right to reply on the subject. Please find his letter below:
Letter to the Dorset Echo from the County Council:
There is no roof garden planned at County hall, and there never was.
Four years ago when options were being looked at for reducing our property numbers, an architect’s sketch featured a balcony on level 4 planted up with greenery. It was attractive but the plan has only ever been to reduce buildings numbers, make better use of council buildings and provide decent workspace.
In 2010 we owned over 750 properties across the county. Having buildings costs money, so in order to reduce our overheads the Way We Work programme was agreed and implemented to cut building and associated costs, invest in the remaining buildings and increase the use of these significantly.
We have planned the extra use of some buildings and have increased the rate of identifying and disposing of surplus properties. Our target is to reduce the running cost of our estate over a five year period by £3.2m per annum.
To date we have disposed of or ‘let go’ of 162 properties, amounting to about 24% of the estate’s footprint. This has generated capital receipts of £10.5m over the past two years and has already led to £3m coming out of previous maintenance budgets for next year. Other savings on property have been attributed to help savings in directorates including Children’s services. This is us doing things differently to make savings rather than cutting services, ‘back office’ savings so often referred to.
The work to adapt and improve County Hall and indeed other office accommodation across the county is part of that programme. In County Hall we will accommodate at least 300 additional staff within the building, giving the authority savings of £560,000 per annum by disposing of surplus office buildings in and around Dorchester. In addition, these works will also reduce the maintenance costs on the building and will improve its sustainability, which will also generate cost savings.
The business case that we are working on and which shows the return on investment has been included in Cabinet reports and has been the subject of scrutiny committee discussions and has seen cross party support.