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Council propose to sell or demolish Crown Buildings & some council owned community centres

Wrexham Council looking to carry out further work to see if it is possible to either sell or knock down Crown Buildings – an office block and car park used by the local authority.

In documents released ahead of next week’s Executive Board meeting where the green light will all but certainly be given to this year’s ‘Difficult Decisions 2018/19 and 2019/20 – Reshaping Services/Budget Consultation’, it is noted that demolishing or selling the office space could yield £229,000 of ‘savings’.

No detail is given on what value the offices or  land could be sold off at, or how much it would cost to demolish the 250 foot long building.

The sell off or demolish plan is not detailed in what is likely to be the public consultation document, however there is a more encompassing note from the Council that reads: “In April 2011, we started a review of our office accommodation.

“The first part of this process was about trying to make sure that teams and services were placed in the right buildings, and that where possible, we brought teams and departments together. This means we have significantly reduced the amount of money spent on leasing buildings or office space from other people.

“The second stage of changing the way we use our office accommodation, was to introduce more flexible ways of working (or ‘agile’ working). This means that (for teams where it is practical) staff can work from different office bases or from home.

“This is a much more efficient way of working as it means people don’t always have to return to the same office base in between meetings (for example), and it has meant that we can reduce the number of fixed desks we need (thereby reducing the space we need).

“In 2012 WCBC occupied nineteen buildings for office accommodation, and in 2017 we occupy 11. We have also reduced the average cost per square foot of this accommodation by approximately 44%. There are plans to consolidate the buildings we occupy even further through continued agile working and a more efficient use of space.”

Crown Buildings is inside ‘key site three’ in the Town Centre Masterplan (below) along with the soon to be demolished police station, the Magistrates Court that will soon lack cells and the Memorial Hall. We have written before regarding the future of the Memorial Hall after results of an FOI revealed a discussion mentioning the “replacement of the Memorial Hall”.

Back in 2014 Waterworld was set to be knocked down due to a consultants recommendation, however in 2015 it gained a reprieve.

Demolition could also be on the cards with the remaining community centres that are owned by Wrexham Council but are not in use. The planned consultation option reads: “It is proposed that these remaining community centre buildings (i.e. Kingsley Circle, Abenbury and Penycae) are either transferred to a third party by 31st March 2018 or considered for disposal or demolition.”

If options are exercised savings of around £3,000 could be seen in 2018/19 and £11,000 in 2019/20.

A number of community centres across Wrexham have been taken over by trusts or voluntary groups, with initial proposals to close 1o of the 19 centres across the county borough put forward in 2014.

The reasons for the cuts is explained in the preamble to the proposed consultation document: “Local Councils have less money to spend on services because Government (UK and Wales) are giving us less money in our budgets every year.

“Wrexham Council has already saved around £18 million in the last three years, and we think we’re going to have to find another £13 million over the next two years. Overall, we have had to make savings of £52 million since 2008.

“We want to be able to deliver good services to you, and we’re always looking for ways to get better at what we’re doing. We are working hard to become a more modern organisation and to make sure that we have the right staff and services in place to meet the needs of local people.

“We are trying to make savings which don’t affect the public in a bad way, but as we have less and less money to spend every year, it’s getting harder. We are also given new responsibilities by Welsh Government every year, which all cost money and time (e.g. changes in Social Services)”

Neither of the proposals, nor any of those featured in next week’s report, are guaranteed to happen, with the public expected to have their say on the number of suggestions put forward before a final budget decision is made.

Last week Welsh Government announced a probable further 0.3% cut in their settlement to Wrexham Council, a cut of £564,000 in the coming year.

 

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