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"Under one roof" plan for Sutton Council to save money 8.12.10

Sutton Council is considering closing its district offices and relocating most of its staff under one roof in a bid to save money.

Civic Offices

Preliminary research suggests the council could make substantial savings if it shut its offices at Denmark Road, The Lodge, The Grove and Stonecourt in Carshalton and instead house the workers in the Civic Offices in Sutton.

Cllr John Drage, Sutton Council's Executive Member for Finance and Efficiency, said: "Because we have to save at least 25  per cent of our budget over the next four years, it's the right time to look at ways we can deliver our services more efficiently.

"It isn't about providing nice new offices for council workers; it's about saving our residents a lot of money. These savings could then be used to protect the frontline services people value most."

The outline business case says the council could make substantial ongoing maintenance savings under the plan and if it invested in the IT needed for 'flexible' working. 

Other benefits would include a dramatic reduction in energy consumption and carbon emissions by only running one 'greener' building and reduced travel costs.

At the Executive meeting next Monday (13 December) councillors will decide whether to proceed to a detailed business case. 

Plans could then be drawn up and precise costs established.  A full business case would be presented in May next year, and if that were to be agreed, teams would begin moving in April 2012 and complete their moves in April 2013.

The scheme is expected to cost a total of £14m, made up of an £11.5m investment in updating the central civic office and £2.1m in improved IT

It would be funded through a sell-off of the district office sites and prudential borrowing, so the council doesn't have to divert money from other projects or other priorities to carry out the project.

It is anticipated the net cashable savings will be £260,000 a year from 2013/14, rising to nearly £350,000 a year from 2019/20.

The business case also details 'non-cashable benefits,' such as improved productivity, a fall in absenteeism and better staff retention, which could be worth an extra £970,000 a year.

Cllr Drage said: "Doing nothing is not a sensible option. We would have to spend £5.5m over the next five years just to keep the buildings running – more than they are actually worth. This sum would rise to £15.1m over 30 years.

"Even when we've paid the borrowing costs, it will still save us £260,000 a year and that sum goes up over time. In hard times we have to make better use of our asset stock.

"This is about working smarter and more flexibly. It's about ensuring the office provision is the right size for a workforce whose number will fall over the next four years."

Other options, such as moving the staff to the former Zurich building in Sutton, were considered but rejected.

The Zurich building is too small to accommodate the council and it was viewed as unlikely that a business would move into the Civic Offices, which have the Central Library and the Sutton Centre for Independent Living and Learning next door. Libraries will not be affected by the plans.

Last updated: Tuesday, 04 January 2011

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