Plans to bring staff from two Suffolk Councils together under one roof will reduce the cost to taxpayers by three million pounds over 10 years should they get the go ahead later this month.
Hailed by councillors as a perfect opportunity to help kick start the local economy, the project would move workers out of unfit and expensive to maintain offices. It would secure the future of 700 key jobs in Lowestoft while also releasing publicly owned land for regeneration, providing further opportunities for employment. Additionally, both councils are committed to reducing their carbon emissions, with a separate report estimating that the project will cut both councils' buildings emissions in Lowestoft by up to 70%.
The business case sets out a vision to build the new shared office complex at Riverside Road, Lowestoft with a joint public access point in the Marina Centre in the town centre. Waveney District Council already owns the land at Riverside Road and current accommodation buildings would be sold in due course to help pay for the project.
The aim is to:
Improve services to the public.
Support the local economy by keeping jobs in the town.
Provide an important catalyst for the regeneration of Lowestoft.
Create 'fit for purpose' working conditions for staff.
Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council's Cabinet Member for Environment and Property Management, said: "It is hugely important that public sector organisations lead by example and make the most efficient use of office accommodation if they're to get value for money for taxpayers.
"Joining forces and sharing facilities means we can improve the quality of office accommodation for our staff and at the same time bring overall costs down. Although no decisions have been made yet, I hope this will be an important step towards achieving essential savings for both councils."
A feasibility report was commissioned to ensure the estimated costs in the Waveney and Suffolk County Council Cabinet reports in April and May were sufficient to deliver the project. That report has concluded that a contribution from each council of £6.825m as a budget figure, which includes a contingency would be sufficient for the project.
During the past five years, Waveney has reduced its office and public access accommodation in Lowestoft to from 11 to six buildings making considerable efficiencies along the way that include capital receipts in the region of £2 million and ongoing revenue efficiencies of circa £100,000 per year. This latest option is the final stage of an accommodation review process created to save money, free up land for regeneration and improve working conditions.
Meanwhile, Suffolk County Council staff are currently based in four separate and aging buildings around Lowestoft, which are not suitable for delivering modern local government services to the public. The option to remain in the councils' current buildings, with necessary refurbishments, was also considered, with figures showing that it could cost up to £15.8 million to maintain those buildings over 10 years.
Cllr Colin Law, Leader of Waveney District Council, said: "The purpose of the business case is to ensure that it makes financial sense to proceed with this project. Any new accommodation must ultimately save taxpayers money as well as provide office space fit to deliver 21st century services.
"It is clear from the report that it would be far more expensive to maintain our current buildings than build something new elsewhere and I would be amazed if anyone in Waveney thought it would be a good idea to remain where we are, given the costs involved. The opportunity to free up publicly owned land for regeneration is also far too good to ignore."
The Lowestoft plan follows a successful shared office project in Bury St Edmunds where staff from the county council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council have been co-located since 2009.
If the plans are approved by both councils, the Riverside Road complex is expected to be available for occupation in late 2014, with the public access centre following immediately afterwards to ensure there is no service disruption.