December 12 2013 Latest news:
Paul Geater and Emma Brennan
Monday, October 21, 2013
Two councils looking to merge their administrations in a single headquarters are considering a move to Ipswich – outside both their districts.
Needham Market-based Mid Suffolk and Hadleigh-based Babergh revealed last week that they are looking to establish a single headquarters to house their joint administration.
However neither of the existing offices are considered to be suitable for political and geographic reasons – and it has emerged that the councils are considering moving next to the county council headquarters at Endeavour House.
Ipswich has good communications with all areas covered by the councils. Space is due to become available in Constantine House, opposite one side of Endeavour House, next year when the county’s contract with Customer Services Direct ends.
Bosses at the county council have discussed the building’s future informally with other public sector chiefs – including those from Babergh and Mid Suffolk. Many councillors in both districts are thought to be relaxed about the idea of having an HQ in Ipswich. One pointed out that Ipswich is far more accessible to some areas than either Hadleigh or Needham Market.
The authorities have just agreed to commission an independent review to determine whether either of the buildings could be shared with other agencies, or if the sites could be developed or sold.
The main office buildings each cost more than £1million a year to run. A spokeswoman for the councils said after a bigger than expected cut in government grants, they had been forced to take a “serious” look at their accommodation needs.
But at a meeting in Hadleigh this week chief executive Charlie Adan said: “If we are going to take these headquarters away, we need to be sure what we are going to replace them with.
“It is going to have a big effect on the local community and we must consider the socio-economic impact.”
Babergh strategy committee member Clive Arthey said councillors could not afford to be sentimental. “I have walked through the offices in both Hadleigh and Needham and they are huge, with very few people in them,” he said.
At Mid Suffolk, Green councillor Andrew Stringer said it was emotive seeing council facilities “lit and heated with no-one in them.”
Andrew Hunkin, Mid Suffolk and Babergh’s strategic director, said the two HQs could be sold, leased or turned into something else.
He said the review, which could be complete before Christmas, will cost £10,000-£20,000.