Experts look at council move

CONSULTANTS are to be employed at a cost of up to £30,000 to look at the state of a council's offices – and help it decide whether to move to a new HQ.

CONSULTANTS are to be employed at a cost of up to £30,000 to look at the state of a council's offices - and help it decide whether to move to a new HQ.

Suffolk Coastal is faced with having to spend more than £5 million on its current main offices in the next decade and is considering whether to move to, or build, new premises.

It is already faced with an outlay this year of £230,000 to improve outdated fire precautions at its buildings and put in access for people with disabilities.

Councillors have been horrified at the costs involved but fear they have little option, especially over the need to comply with the new Disability Discrimination Act.

Members of the cabinet have agreed to the access adaptation work, and also to spend a maximum of £12,000 on consultants to review future accommodation options, and a maximum of £17,000 on a condition survey of properties.

Council chiefs say in the next ten years, the authority is looking at a mend and make do maintenance bill of £5.1m - which will not even improve or add value to the offices on Melton Hill at Woodbridge.

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A report to cabinet said the buildings had a life expectancy of 25 years. The date has now passed and age was leading to a growing need for costly maintenance.

But if the authority should move to a new site it will mean enormous upheaval for the 300 staff who work at the offices - and possibly working in another town, too, as the council is likely to look at land available all over the district.

With land prices so high in Woodbridge, it could turn its attention to Felixstowe, where there are sites available on the edge of the town for office use.

Options include redeveloping the existing site, demolishing the existing buildings and replacing them with a smaller more modern complex, and using the remainder of the riverside site for housing.

Officers have looked at this already though and fear that even with selling some of the site for homes, the council would be left with a bill of £8m to cover the cost of demolition and a new building.

The best way forward could be to sell off the site to a developer who could build a few offices or a business centre on part of the land, and use the remainder for houses, perhaps converting the oldest part of the buildings.

This would provide cash for the council to find alternative premises, either build new ones, or lease offices or seek a partner to develop a site which the council would then rent.

n What do you think of the council spending taxpayers' money on consultants in this way? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail