New home for council

PUBLISHED: 11:35 02 November 2006 | UPDATED: 11:08 06 May 2010

The Old Grammar School Building, site of the proposed move by North Herts District Council

The Old Grammar School Building, site of the proposed move by North Herts District Council

A NEW home with all the staff under one roof by 2010 – that s the aim of North Herts District Council. And it says the move should not cost council taxpayers a penny in the long run. A full council meeting tonight (Thursday) is being recommended to plump

A NEW home with all the staff under one roof by 2010 - that's the aim of North Herts District Council.

And it says the move should not cost council taxpayers a penny in the long run.

A full council meeting tonight (Thursday) is being recommended to plump for the local authority to forge ahead with a plan to extend and refurbish the Old Grammar School Building overlooking Broadway Gardens in Letchworth GC as its new headquarters.

Buying the building from Herts County Council and carrying out the work is estimated to cost £7.75m - half the money the council has in its reserves.

The council's current headquarters in Gernon Road, Letchworth GC, are leased. It owns Letchworth Town Hall and the nearby Gernon Lodge and it is proposing to sell both these buildings.

It is estimated that the sale of these will leave a shortfall of £4.75m - but the council believes this can be made up over time primarily through savings in no longer having to rent the current HQ and part of the Spirella Building.

In council speak, it is called "revenue neutral".

Currently, the Old Grammar School Building is partly occupied by Relate and the Citizens' Advice Bureau. There is a possibility that these two voluntary organisations could be accommodated on the current site. Otherwise, the council is expected to give an assurance that every effort will be made to find them alternative accommodation.

Council deputy leader Terry Hone, who is also portfolio holder for finance, said there were three main reasons for the council to stay in Letchworth GC:

# It is geographically central to the district council's area

# It was decided that it was best to stay in Letchworth because moving towns would cause disruption to staff

# The commercial impact to the town of moving out of Letchworth.

On the choice of the Old Grammar School Building, he said it was considered the best site in town after a detailed feasibility study was carried out.

And on the need for the council to change its accommodation, Cllr Hone said: "We are operating from four separate office locations which is inefficient in terms of staff resources and running costs for buildings.

"We can't carry out further refurbishment of existing buildings, for example to improve Disability Discrimination Act compliance, in a way that provides value for money."

The future use of Gernon Lodge which used to be the council's revenue centre is uncertain. But Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation has already expressed a keen interest in buying the town hall and re-housing an expanded First Garden City Heritage Museum there from its current home in Norton Way South.

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