Plans for Durham County Council to leave city base

Durham County Hall durham County Council
Durham County Hall durham County Council

Durham County Council could be set to leave its base at Aykley Heads under new proposals.

The authority’s cabinet will be asked to endorse a plan to vacate the current HQ on the outskirts of Durham City and to move off the site to pave the way for “significant private sector investment”.

Members will also be asked to maintain the authority’s footprint across the county and to agree to the principle of relocating the HQ to a city centre location.

Depending on the outcome of discussions on the County Durham Plan, between 2,500 and 6,000 new private sector jobs could be secured on the site.

In addition it is estimated that up to an additional £1million could be spent in the city if the council moved into a new city centre location.

A report to be considered by members next week on July 15 outlines the costs and savings linked to the proposed move, which is the next stage in the authority’s Office Accommodation Programme.

The programme has already seen the council save more than £900,000 a year by reducing the number of office buildings it operates and maintains – closures expected to bring in £7million in capital receipts.

At the same time new Customer Access Points have opened in town centres across the county and where possible these have been combined with libraries and services from other partner agencies to improve access to these for the public.

Cabinet member for economic regeneration, Cllr Neil Foster, said: “We have an opportunity we should not miss to pave the way for the sort of investment which will be life-changing for families across the county.

“We desperately need more and higher paid jobs for residents and take the chance to reduce our own costs at the same time.

“Such a move would require considerable initial investment but the economic potential of the Aykley Heads site shouldn’t be underestimated and to unlock this potential we must relocate.”

A move for the council’s HQ to a city centre location would also see some staff relocated to four sites across the county – Crook, Meadowfield, Seaham and Spennymoor.

Changes linked to such a move would include a move to flexible ways of working like hot desking, home working and mobile working wherever possible.

If members agree the proposal next week, a detailed business plan would be developed.

This would then be brought back to cabinet in the spring of 2016 for a final decision.

It is anticipated that a move of this scale would take up to four years to complete.