COUNCIL relocation plans from North Quay in Weymouth have been backed.
Officers will now consult widely about the proposed front of house office relocation plans and will seek support from unions for the recommended proposals prior to implementation.
Last year Weymouth and Portland Borough Council agreed to dispose of the North Quay site which has been its base for more than 40 years. Refurbishing the offices would cost more than £2 million.
Councillors on the management committee debated the issue and heard proposed plans to relocate operations to three different sites – including moving almost 100 staff to Dorchester.
An amendment by Labour councillors to investigate costs further and refer the issue to a scrutiny committee while also waiting for a decision by the new chief executive was lost on a 6-3 vote.
After much debate the committee agreed to recommendations to relocate ‘front office’ facilities to the upstairs Mulberry Suite at Weymouth Library, this would be to provide front of house services and areas could be converted for council meetings.
The Crookhill Depot in Chickerell could be used for local and some back office facilities, including hosting the Parking Section cash counting and back office services.
The remaining North Quay staff, including those covering HR, legal, finance and other similar functions, would then move to West Dorset District Council’s South Walks House in Dorchester. This is subject to an agreement with the district council.
Relocating would save £220,000 a year.
It was agreed that consultations would be done with the public and unions, stakeholders and staff in respect to the recommendations and that the results should be reported back to a future Management Committee meeting.
A Unison representative raised concerns about the difference between consultation and communication.
Coun Ian Roebuck said that consultation was ‘absolutely crucial.’ One elected member from each of the three political parties will sit on the project group as part of that consultation process.
Putting the decision into context, Coun Peter Chapman said that between 2010-20 they had a reduction in budget of £9 million, so far they had achieved £6million but there was the ‘toughest’ £3million to go.
He said: “The end goal is a substantial saving that will protect jobs and protect services.”
He added that no-one particularly liked the North Quay building aesthetically and called it an ‘eyesore.’ The final plans were not in front of them, Mr Chapman said and consultation would be carried out to create the final idea.
He said: “The final decision is not in front of us, but the idea is feasible.”
David Clarke, borough council chief executive, sought to reassure members and said that the ‘consultation starts now.’ Concerns had been raised that with staff moving from working in Weymouth to working in Dorchester, there could be economic repercussions.
But he said: “The real economic effect is based on where people live. We are not changing that.”
Poundbury architects Ben Penreath and Associates have been appointed by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to produce an outline planning application for a ‘sympathetic’ mixed development for North Quay. They have created an indicative artist’s impression of what the site could look like, which complements the work already being done at the nearby old fire station site.
THE Pavilion’s Ocean Room will be the temporary site for council meetings until more permanent arrangements can be made.
Councillors had to look at a range of options to house future full council meetings in view of the likelihood that the sale of the Guildhall being concluded by June 2014. The site or venues will house the full council meetings until a new base is created alongside the North Quay move plans, possibly at the Mulberry Suite site.
Many venues had been looked at including schools, and hotels.
A report to councillors suggested that if they wanted the same venue for all meetings between June 2014- May 2015, that the Ocean Rooms was the only option- to which councillors agreed.
Speaking in the public participation section, Councillor Kate Wheller said it would not be appropriate for the council to roam about different places ‘like a bunch of travelling clowns’ and that the Ocean Room was a good option, with good facilities and parking.