IN EFFORTS to meet dramatic budget cuts, Dorset County Council (DCC) has sold or 'given up' 60 buildings across the county in the past six years.

But despite the severe government cuts, DCC is trying to maximise space available in a smaller number of buildings in efforts to maintain frontline services.

Out of the 60 buildings sold or 'given up' 14 of them were libraries, day centres or learning centres. Other buildings included residential care homes, depots and workshops, offices and admin buildings.

Peter Scarlett, Dorset County Council’s estate and assets service manager said: "In 2010 Dorset County Council adopted a strategy to rationalise our property estate. At the time we owned over 750 properties across the county and this decision was taken because there was insufficient budget to maintain this size of estate. We adopted a strategy to proactively dispose of surplus properties. More recently, we have set a target to reduce the running cost of our estate over the next five years by £3.2million per annum. We are occupying our accommodation more efficiently and thereby reducing the property costs. This will safeguard front line services for the residents of Dorset.

"A programme is underway to rationalise our property estate from 26 buildings down to eight, located in key towns across the county. This programme will save Dorset County Council approximately £1,000,000 per annum in running costs of its office estate, while improving working conditions for staff in the retained buildings.

"The authority is also in the process of developing what it calls ‘A Community Offer for Living and Learning’, which entails combining assets with other public sector bodies to create a comprehensive community offer delivered out of key buildings across the county. This will make better use of public buildings and provide a targeted offer of public services based on the needs of the local communities.

"Through this public bodies, including the county and district councils and also government departments such as Department of Work and Pensions, to share buildings and reduce their overall occupational costs."

In the space of nine months from June 2012 to February 2013 six libraries were either sold or 'given up' by DCC. Portland Underhill Library, Chickerell Library, Wool Library and Puddletown Library were 'given up' and Charmouth Library and Stalbridge Library were sold.

Mr Scarlett added: "Legislation requires that when we need to dispose of assets that we get the best value, unless the county council has resolved to use its general powers of competence to dispose of an asset at an undervalue for the benefit of a local community."

Sara Tough, Dorset County Council’s director for children’s services and sponsor for the way we work programme, added: "We are continuing with our strategy to reduce our property portfolio across the county and maximise space in a smaller number of buildings. This will save us £3.6m in running costs alone."