Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Council offices - securing the best solution for Cornwall

I hope that the proposal I have made for Cornwall Council's office strategy is one which gives reassurance to councillors and communities that the authority is truly a council for the whole of Cornwall.

The dilemma was this:

The previous administration took the decision to move most of the staff currently based in various locations around Bodmin into a new building on the Beacon Industrial Park. Although there would be a cost to the new building, it would be a lot more efficient than those it replaced and would also allow the other buildings to be sold off. This scheme was pretty uncontroversial and mirrored what was being done in other towns.

The new administration received a second quote however. This was for a bigger building in Bodmin (almost double the size) and worked out a lot cheaper and more efficient. But it would only be a good plan if we could work out which staff would fill the bits that the current Bodmin staff would not.

Having council staff based in a town is important. Not only do those staff contribute to the local economy, but they give a reassurance that we are not a Truro-centric authority. So I set the aim of maintaining a strong presence in each of the former districts.

But the two options originally on the table for filling the 'Bigger Bodmin' would have seen large numbers of staff moving from either Liskeard or from St Austell. Both of those towns were naturally keen to keep something like the current numbers in situ.

The previous Conservative-led council had laid claim to a 'guarantee' to maintain a certain number of jobs in St Austell, but this was based entirely on a particular planning application being approved. It wasn't and so their words meant nothing.

Now we have come up with another alternative which is likely to see the spare capacity taken up by our partners at BT Cornwall. This should allow us to maintain roughly the same numbers of staff in both St Austell and Liskeard and to make the savings associated with the larger build option in Bodmin. It should also allow us to retain the Higher Trenant building and our significant presence in Wadebridge.

We cannot guarantee exact numbers in each town, or particular buildings, but this should ensure that the current numbers are roughly maintained.

This decision is one for the cabinet and the issue will first be discussed by the Finance and Resources committee who will consider all four possible options. I hope, however, that they back the new deal.

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