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Civic Centre move will save council over £1million without affecting services

Published: 29/09/2023
International House

Ashford Borough Council’s proposed relocation from the Civic Centre to International House will save around £1.3m per year, without affecting services or job losses.

Last night (Thursday 28 September), cabinet members discussed and approved the recommendations put forward for the relocation, which are now subject to approval at Full Council on Thursday 19 October.

Earlier this year, as part of wider budget saving ideas, the Council announced that it is looking at the possibility of relocating from the current Civic Centre offices. The Council confirmed it is facing some significant budget challenges over the coming years.

There is a strong financial rationale for looking at moving to International House based upon building and maintenance costs that will be required at the Civic Centre over the next few years and there being available capacity within council-owned International House. 

Key points within the report include:

  • This proposal looks at rationalising the Council’s office space to bring forward significant savings in the region of £1.3m per annum without affecting service levels in the borough of Ashford.
  • An annual saving of £1.3m, will remove a budget pressure of £6.5m across the Medium-Term Financial Plan (5 year plan).
  • The future expansion or contraction of the Council will be easier to control at International House due to the size and layout of the building which offers greater flexibility.
  • Vacant office space within the Council’s property portfolio currently stands at 2234m².
  • Staff and public consultation were well responded to and did not raise any areas of concern that couldn’t be addressed.

Cllr Noel Ovenden, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, said: “The proposed move to International House will allow the Council to make savings without cutting services or affecting staffing levels.  It is a sound commercial decision that will contribute annual savings of £1.3m, that will not have a negative impact on Ashford residents, into the Medium Term Financial Plan where we have budget pressures that require us to find further savings. ”

Phased approach

The current proposal is to transfer the whole of the Civic Centre to International House over two phases, with the office side moving first early next year and then the Civic Suite (including the Council Chamber, Committee Rooms and the Monitoring Centre) to follow on in late 2024. Phase 3 would be the disposal or redevelopment of the Civic Centre site.

Financial case

Moving could contribute significant savings. Post pandemic, many organisations are working in different ways, and our building is now not as well used. It has poor insulation and costs a lot to use and maintain. There are also some parts of the building which either need serious investment or completely replacing in the coming years, which adds to the overall running costs.

In summary the decision to move to International House enables the council to deliver the same services whilst reducing overall costs. The move will reduce the council’s exposure to financial risk by disposing or redeveloping the Civic Centre.

Next steps

There is more work to be done on these proposals so we will endeavour to keep everyone updated, including residents, staff, members and other stakeholders as more details emerge, but for now, the message to residents is very much ‘it’s business as usual’.