Is a bigger Bodmin office the right move?
Now I have recovered from the mammoth Cabinet meeting of some 25 items, many of which were complex, I can blog as to why I voted against the bigger Bodmin offices. Before I do, I will say that out of the 25 items, only three of those decisions did not have unanimous support from the Cabinet. So this post is not a disagreement with my Cabinet colleagues, but coming to a different conclusion.
In theory, I have no objection to a bigger office in Bodmin or anywhere else as long as it is strategically right. The last administration did come to the conclusion that to help deal with the massive budget pressures, the Council cannot afford all the buildings the Council occupies now or previously.
This leads me on to the overall office rationalisation of reducing the number of main offices the Council occupies. Let’s face it; the Council is going to struggle to fund the existing accommodation without having to take the savings from other parts of the Council. This will no-doubt affect front-line services.
By building a bigger office in Bodmin, we could reduce the number of other offices and benefit from the savings. However, when this is suggested or god-forbid implemented it is met with opposition; as national and local politicians often want a council office in their location. So office rationalisation often fails to be implemented as well as it can be. Looking at this from a purely financial angle, if we built a bigger office, the Council could save £750,000 per year, and reduce a further £1.7 million in maintenance. Tough choices, yes, but if cannot make them, how will we be able to deal with the massive cuts of £196m in the next five years?
Of course this will not be popular, but which is more popular: the ability of providing front-line services, or having lots of buildings in different locations which do not provide front-line provision. My answer is providing front-line services. Hence why did not think the recommendations went far enough in trying to save money in office accommodation and making sure we provide the services to people, especially to the most vulnerable.
The other reason I was did not agree with the recommendation is why are we building a larger office for BT? This ‘preferred’ tenant has given nothing more than a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ of actually becoming tenants. This has me very worried, we all know BT are a very sharp corporate body who would only become tenants if it suited them, not the Council’s requirement to service the load repayments.
Furthermore, BT has not signed a pre-let agreement which would give some security of actually taking up the tenancy. This is despite BT being asked for some sort of pre-let. Are your alarm bells ringing? For me, yes they are. As what will happen If BT do not become our tenant? Then what? That answer is the Council would have to fill it some how.
So go big, which will save money, this will allow the Council the best chance to provide services. BUT before you build, have your tenant(s) signed up the best you can, or else you will end up trying to fill a large building on the hoof. This course of action never works.
Out of the 10 Cabinet Members, only six voted for the recommendations set out in the report. However, this is now a Cabinet decision and we as a Cabinet all get behind it