Fenland Council told by chief executive savings of up to £160,000 a year possible by move to Hereward Hall

Hereward Hall

Hereward Hall - Credit: Archant

Chief executive Paul Medd believes Fenland Council could save between £50,000 and £160,000 by downsizing and moving to Hereward Hall, 500 metres down the road.

Fenland Hall March

Fenland Hall March - Credit: Archant

The adjoining county council building, like Fenland Hall he says, has a “significant amount of under-utilised floor space” and the move makes financial sense.

Mr Medd said the cost of buying Hereward Hall would be around £700,000-£800,000 and this would include all the adaptations needed. The gross savings have been arrived at by comparing the future running costs of both buildings together with the estimated additional income from renting out space at the council’s works unit at Melbourne Avenue to the county council.

“Such a move is not considered lightly,” says Mr Medd in a report to the overview and scrutiny committee.

“However from a value for money perspective the Hereward Hall proposal offers much needed efficiencies.”

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He added that it would provide a smaller but more modern head office for the council with lower operating and maintenance costs.

The county council is moving out of Hereward Hall in the New Year and if Fenland Council were to take it over there would be major changes.

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For a start it would only be able to accommodate smaller committee meetings and monthly planning committees- and meetings of the full council- would have to be held elsewhere.

Mr Medd believes the full council could meet at Wisbech Boathouse with planning committees rotating across the district at venues such as the Manor in Whittlesey and South Fens business centre, Chatteris.

Biggest challenge will be with staff with some having to move to other parts of the district if the move is agreed.

Fenland Council has reduced its work force from 704 in 2009 to 487 in 2014 and at Fenland Hall 100 of the 300 work stations are not in use.

Of the 239 staff now working at Fenland Hall some would move to other FDC locations or to the county council’s recently opened £6.5million area headquarters at Wisbech, Awdry House.

One immediate issue might be parking, says Mr Medd, who believes an extra 40 spaces could be provided at Hereward Hall at a cost of £40,000.

Officers are planning visits to other authorities which have slimmed down in recent years to see how modern working practices have led to the need for smaller offices.

The chief executive is hopeful his staff are equipped to handle the technicalities of the move although “it may be necessary to engage project management assistance should in-house resources not allow such a role to be covered”.

If the 90 year-old Fenland Hall is vacated, Mr Medd believes it could be sold for offices or turned into flats or possibly even flattened for re-development.

What happens to the ambulance station within the grounds of Fenland Hall will be subject to further talks.

Mr Medd predicts the council could receive a “substantial capital receipt” from the sale of Fenland Hall but this could be two or three years away.

“Therefore the council would need to front fund any capital costs for this period,” he says.

The scrutiny committee will debate the proposals on October 13 – a final decision is expected before Christmas.

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