Consultants brought in as councils consider selling headquarters
- Credit: EDP © 2000
Two Norfolk councils have employed consultants to consider the future of their buildings - and that could lead to them selling off their headquarters to move into County Hall.
South Norfolk Council and Broadland district councils are paying thousands of pounds to consultants to carry out a review of their accommodation.
Consultants have been tasked with looking at various options for South Norfolk Council's South Norfolk House in Long Stratton and Broadland's Thorpe Lodge headquarters in Thorpe St Andrew - including potentially selling them off for housing.
The councils have not revealed how much consultants Ingleton Wood and surveyors Roche are being paid for the work.
It is understood the review has prompted concern among some members of the Conservative group at Broadland District Council.
The councils, which share an officer team, but are not merged, have been looking at a number of options and the consultants have been asked to explore them further.
Options include moving to a single office at either Thorpe Lodge or South Norfolk House, leasing or buying a new office space, developing a new site, staying put, or sharing office space, with Norfolk County Council's County Hall one possibility under consideration.
The consultants have been asked to look for solutions with space for up to 250 workstations and a large meeting room which could be used as a council chamber by both councils.
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The councils currently employ 700 staff, 537 of whom had, up until the coronavirus pandemic, worked in the offices.
Some are keen to work from home in the future and the councils have said their offices are under-utilised.
The county council has recently spent more than £70m refurbishing County Hall, including the council chamber and meeting rooms.
South Norfolk House and Thorpe Lodge have recently been valued, but the councils say they will not reveal the figures due to commercial confidentiality.
If the councils were to move, those sites could be marketed as offices or could be turned into housing.
A councillor working group of two Conservatives and one Liberal Democrat councillor from each council has been created to look at the issue.
The consultants' work will inform a business case, which councillors on each council will be asked to agree in the autumn.
John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said it made sense for councils to review their accommodation given the changes the pandemic has brought.
He said: "I am as interested as other taxpayers to see what the options might be, especially if significant amounts of public money can be saved or ways can be found to use existing premises more effectively."
Dan Roper, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group at Broadland District Council, said: "The number one priority needs to be the services we provide to residents and I am concerned that the way this whole process is being rushed through runs the risk that residents will be forgotten."