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Article By Richard Inneson
Why I think that the proposal to move the Town Hall and SBC staff to the former building society offices at Eastfield is unwise.
Local Government is in the middle of a period of great change. Looking back over the past few years, Local Authorities used to be responsible for the provision of water, electricity and gas, public transport, hospitals, slaughterhouses, housing, and doubtless, other services which I have forgotten; these have now all been transferred to the private sector.
The provision of the remaining local government functions will also be progressively transferred to the private sector, with local authorities only retaining the responsibility for the provision of the services, but, not actually employing the staff and ensuring that these functions are performed satisfactorily.
Local Authorities will oversee the tendering process for the provision of services by the private sector, and they will organise the supervision/audit of the services, they will also retain the function of raising the finance to pay for these services, viasome form of the Council Tax.
The Councillors will still have the same decision making powers as they have at present.
What this means is that the number of people employed by local authorities is going to fall dramatically, this fall in numbers will be accelerated as new technology absorbs more and more of the routine administration work presently done by Local Authority staff. New technology will also enable the staff of Local Authorities to work from home.
All of these factors indicate that the need for office space is diminishing.
The only way to manage the changing needs of SBC as regards office space is to rent it; this is what private companies have been doing for some years; the changes in the manner in which Local Authorities provide services will happen gradually, and there is a need to be able to adjust office space requirements as the levels of staff employed by Local Authorities fluctuate.
Looking at the ex-building society offices, this building is a white elephant. And in the present financial climate should be on offer at a bargain price, the owners claim that it cost £10 million to build and they are willing to let it go for £3 million, sounds like a bargain, but I don’t think so.
If SBC do not buy it, who else is in the market for a rapidly ageing office block built in the middle of nowhere?
If it is to be bought, it wants to be bought at a knock down price, because in a few years, that is what will happen to it; the price should be nearer £1million – and even then, it needs thinking about, very carefully.
What needs to be considered is this; what will this building look like in twenty years time, when the roof is leaking and the heating and air conditioning and the windows and the interior all want replacing? This state-of-the-art work place will look very outmoded and shabby in only a few years time. Given the record of SBC as regards maintaining its public buildings, it is unlikely that this building will receive the care and attention which it will need to keep it in good order.
Looked at from every angle, this proposal is a non-starter. If followed through, it will be a financial millstone round the neck of SBC Council Tax payers for many years to come. I cannot see who will benefit from the move; the electorate will be inconvenienced as regards accessing the Town Hall anddisadvantaged financially; the staff, I would think, will not want to be working in a building which is in such an isolated location.
Let us hope that we have some Councillors who are not going to be dazzled by a few tinted windows and coloured brickwork.
[Richard Ineson: 08/07/2012]