Agenda item

Accommodation Project - Project Closure

Leader - (C-013-2021-22) – to note the closure report for the accommodation project.


Full closure report to follow.



The Cabinet formally acknowledged and agreed to the closure of the Accommodation Project.




The Leader introduced the project closure report on the Accommodation Project.  He noted that the October 2019 Cabinet made the decision to proceed with the refurbishment of the Civic Offices and for the award of contract to ISG Fit Out Ltd for the construction works. The Accommodation Project set out to refurbish the Civic Building and 323 House, with the Conder building demolished and the rear of the Civic Offices site redeveloped for residential use in line with the Local Plan. The Accommodation Project commenced in July 2020 and successfully completed in April 2021.


This was a very well run project and of course things changed as it moved along; when first conceived it was prior to the Covid pandemic. We made good decisions especially on the technology for the building which is now the envy of many other councils and set us up for the future which we intended to do and at the same time addressing a lot of maintenance work to an old building.


We have had very good meetings with the leader and deputy leader of Essex CC who were very impressed by the space we have to offer in our community hub and at our modern facility we now have.


Councillor Philip congratulated the officers on being on time and on budget for this project.


Councillor Janet Whitehouse asked about the proposed café in the Community Hub and the statement that it would help the economic health of the High Street. She was not sure there was a need for another café in the area. We needed people to go to the High Street and use the existing coffee and other shops there. this should be reviewed. Another thing was that members used to have their own locker/pigeon holes. These had not been provided. She was told that we used to have a café for staff here in the building but also going forward it would be an asset to the community when we also have a library and other partners there, making it more of a community hub.  As for pigeon holes for members, no one used them, and we also have to get used to the new ways of working.


Councillor Holly Whitbread noted that this was a great modern use of the building and it could a provide an opportunity for a local business to run a café in a central location. And also, the more people we have in the building the more people can use our local shops etc.


Councillor Patel noted that this would also be a model for other community hubs across the district.


Councillor Sunger noted that having a café would be an opportunity for local residents and businesses to network and meet up. And it would be supporting the businesses that would be working from our offices here. The Leader said it also depended on who we were working with. It may be that some of the larger Town and Parish councils may want to set up their own hubs.


Councillor Murray agreed with much of what had been said. He had two areas of concern; one he was not convinced that it would be an adequate space for the library and it was also difficult to judge where the money had been spent, noting that some of the money would have been spent on infrastructure works etc.; he would also like to be reminded of how many tenders we got for this work. He was 80% happy with the report and the project; but his gut reaction was that we did not have value for money on this.


The Leader noted that 80% happy was not too bad. He noted that this report would go to a Select Committee in the future. As for refurbishing, there was a lot of things that you could not see, such as air conditioning and heating. He agreed to differ about the Library the use of Libraries changes with time. We had one tender which went through a detailed tendering process. They were well organised, Covid secure and delivered on time and on budget and were good value for money.


Councillor Philip reminded that meeting that they also had to renovate a listed building where even the paint was listed. It was costly to renovate like this and that had to be factored in.


Councillor Patel noted that this was now a more energy efficient building and asked when we would see some of those cost benefits back on our expenditure. He was told that some of it was being realised now, for example the boilers had been replaced giving us around a £10,000 per year saving, other savings and benefits were still to come online.





The Cabinet formally acknowledged and agreed to the closure of the Accommodation Project.



Reasons for Proposed Decision:


In April 2021, the Accommodation Project completed on time, in budget and delivered the outcomes agreed. The project is now ready for formal closure.


Other Options for Action:



Supporting documents: