Suffolk Coastal District Council’s new headquarters in Melton were officially opened on Thursday 15 June.
Over 100 guests were present to see the Lord-Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare, Countess of Euston, carry out the opening duties – amid praise for the design of the new building.
“Bringing this project home on time, within budget and to such a high specification, was a major achievement for the council,”
said Suffolk Coastal’s Leader, Cllr Ray Herring, at the event.
“The fact we have achieved this without creating any extra tax burden on local people and now have offices that should create significant long-term saving for the tax payer – is something we can all be proud of.”
“Importantly, we have now got a modern, energy-efficient headquarters, which will enable us to continue to provide a high quality of service to local people. We have also proved that government buildings can be attractive, as well as being functional and providing good value for money!”
Staff moved into East Suffolk House in December 2016 and have settled in well to the new open-plan working environment.
The council’s old offices in Melton Hill, Woodbridge, have been sold, subject to contract, and the site will be used to create much-needed new homes for the town.
In 2012, Suffolk Coastal launched a review process to critically look at all of our accommodation across the District. Then, in 2014, after looking at all the options open to us, the Council decided to move from its ageing existing office in Melton Hill, Woodbridge, to these modern premises.
The key drivers for the review was the fact that partnership working and other efficiencies in recent years meant that the old headquarters was simply too big for our current staffing level and the building is becoming increasing expensive to maintain and repair.
“Our aim was to protect the tax payer, by reducing the Council's running costs in the future. The fact these purpose-built offices were built on a brown field site, was an added attraction, as was the opportunity that the move should bolster the economy of Melton,”
said Cllr Herring.
“We wanted to create a modern working environment, which is affordable, sustainable and compatible with Suffolk Coastal being an efficient and forward-thinking organisation. I think we have succeeded.”
The capital costs of the move are being covered by the money raised by the sale of Cedar House and the old headquarters in Melton Hill – so there was no need to raise extra taxes or go into debt.
By downsizing, Suffolk Coastal aims to significantly reduce its spending on the running costs of its headquarters. The move will save the Council, and the tax payer, an estimated £200,000 a year in running costs, rising to £500,000 a year in the longer term.
The two buildings; East Suffolk House and the Annex, provide open office spaces for Suffolk Coastal staff and includes a flexible and adaptable Council Chamber for meetings - making council meetings more accessible to those who want to attend or wish to view them remotely.
“These buildings are also an investment in the future. In January this year, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils agreed to create a new, single 'super district' council, serving the residents and communities of east Suffolk, from Lowestoft in the north to Felixstowe in the south,”
said Cllr Herring.
“It is important that our communities can identify with their Council, so a joint headquarters would not be appropriate. Experience has shown, people prefer their services to be accessible and be provided as locally as possible.”
“The geography and length of the east Suffolk coastline does not lend itself to having one administration centre. It would be too remote from a significant portion of the community, and travelling costs for councillors and staff would be prohibitively high.”
“Even if there was a unitary authority, it would still need service bases and having a modern, cost effective and sustainable building here is more likely to safeguard jobs in this area, whatever the future brings.”
The total cost for the project has come in under budget at £5.5million. The cost of land acquisition and building new premises was £3.9m, which was met from existing resources. We will generate capital funds through the sale of both our existing headquarters and nearby Cedar House. The total cost for fitting out the new building, installing ICT, including the upgrade to facilities at Woodbridge Library cost 1.6million.