Agenda item

Property Services - Update on Property Rationalisation


Councillor Gareth Dadd, Executive Member for Finance & Resources attended the meeting to introduce the update on property rationalisation.  He confirmed the expected early quick wins had not been as quick as expected but the lack of early pace had now been resolved.


Gary Fielding, Corporate Director for Resources apologised for the previous substandard report, in part due to the lack of senior officers in post within the property team, which was still struggling to get to capacity. 


He went on to provide a presentation that included an overview of:


·         The principles behind the agreed approach to rationalise / optimise offices and the Council’s commitment to a distributed model of operation;


·         The quick wins which included the relinquishing of leasehold properties (Jesmond House & Civic Centre in Harrogate; Richmondshire House / Mercury House in Richmond, and North Yorkshire House and Town Hall in Scarborough) the mothballing of Stonecross and Malton House, and associated revenue and Co2 savings and capital receipts;


·         The planned review of NYC Depots to identify efficiencies, deliver cost savings and future proof them. 


Gary Fielding confirmed the work would involve carrying out site feasibility studies to identify their suitability of either housing, regeneration, sale, carbon offset etc.   Business cases would need to be developed, and the projects would need to be structured to manage any associated risks.  Appropriate engagement / consultation would also be required with staff and residents.


He noted the buildings were there to house people and things to deliver Council services, and as yet the Council did not have full clarity on all of its restructures (expected to be completed by end of summer 2024). In addition the Council’s longer term position in regard to hybrid working had yet to be agreed and a decision on where Councillor would hold meetings and the senior Management team would be based was also yet to be made. He suggested there may also be opportunities to exploit with partners.  


He noted the quick wins were now on track with potential revenue savings identified of between £225K - £490K (subject to the successful sublet of some properties), and the next steps were to develop:


·         Options to vacate;

·         Customer Hubs in Northallerton and Malton;

·         New ways of working


He also drew attention to the ongoing Member Working Group tasked with considering any identified obstacles and ways to optimise progression.


Members recognised the issue of rationalisation was service dependent and therefore closely tied to the ongoing restructure of Council Services following LGR.  They therefore agreed there was a balance to be reached between taking a cautious approach until the impact on services was known and progressing the work as timely as possible.


They went on to agree the necessity of having customer access points in all areas, which could include mobile offices in some areas if appropriate. They also acknowledged the potential knock on effect that closing council buildings could have on footfall on local highstreets and on local businesses.


They also questioned the likelihood of there being parcels of land owned by the Council but not known about and Gary Fielding confirmed the information held on buildings and land (both ex-NYCC and ex-District) was imperfect i.e. the content of the existing asset registers was not great, and the finer details needed improving. 


Councillor Gareth Dadd confirmed the focus was on stretch savings - the original business case included savings on buildings of £1.9m but he suggested there were bigger savings to be made on spending with partners, procurement and staffing.


The Chair thanked the Executive Member and officer for their attendance at the meeting, and it was


Resolved – That:

i.              The update on rationalisation be noted;

ii.            Future regular updates on rationalisation be added to the Committee’s work programme;