Following recent media coverage we wanted to bring you the full picture about plans to reconfigure the ground floor of the Council House.

New changes being planned for the Council House are part of the Council’s ambitious plans to improve customer service and meet the financial challenge of making the Council less and less reliant on Government Grants over the next four years.

Negotiations are under way with a potential new tenant for part of the building’s ground floor.  This partner organisation will not only fund the alterations needed, but will also provide long term income for the Council by paying rent and a service charge.

Part of the Council House is available to be used in this way because of the Council’s more efficient ways of working.

When the refurbished Council House re-opened four years ago, the plan was to accommodate 2100 staff there, on a ratio of 7 desks for every 10 people.

In fact, we have relocated even more staff from other offices, reducing our property costs in the process. This is why the number of people working at the Council House has increased, despite the loss of more than 1,000 posts since 2010 due to budget cuts.

Nearly 3000 staff are now based at the Council House on a desk ratio of 5 desks to 10 people and in some cases on a 4:10 ratio. These desk ratios are some of the best in the country.

At the same time, many customers have switched to accessing our services by phone or over the internet.  As a result, we also need less space to serve those who choose to visit us in person.

Having a partner organisation in the same building will further improve the service to our customers.  Work needs to start now to meet the timescales set by our potential new tenant. To do this we need to employ contractors to redesign and make the necessary alterations.

It is possible that a different part of the ground floor could house a new library. But that is dependent upon the outcome of public consultation into the idea of closing the Central Library and creating a new one inside the Council House.

The Council Cabinet will make a decision on that next Spring, with any associated building work not starting until after then.

Should alterations to accommodate a new library go ahead, the Council will borrow money to pay for them. That borrowing would be completely funded by the income received from the new tenants.

Therefore the total estimated £2.5m cost of redeveloping the ground floor will be recouped – while making the best possible use of our flagship building and creating a better experience for our customers.

This is all part of the Council’s strategy to be more self-reliant and less dependent on Government funding, which is expected to continue to reduce.