Plans to refurbish Chesterfield Town Hall so the building can generate at least £240,000 of income each year to invest in protecting frontline services are to be considered by councillors.
Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet has recommended to full council a proposal to invest capital money – which can only be used for building projects – to generate much needed revenue funds, which can be used to fund crucial frontline services for the public.
If the plans are approved by councillors when they meet on 14 December they would see:
- The council’s housing staff based at Venture House in Dunston and CCTV and parking staff based in New Square move in to the Town Hall, enabling those buildings to be let or sold to generate income to invest in council services
- Walls being knocked down on upper floors of the building to create bigger offices that can house more staff within the same space. All historic parts of the Town Hall, protected by its grade two listed status, would remain unaltered, with all work having the approval of Historic England.
- A floor of the Town Hall currently occupied by council staff being freed up so it can be let out to other public sector organisations.
- Part of the ground floor being used by Derbyshire Register Office from late 2017, subject to final negotiations being completed, to generate additional income.
- Better quality meeting rooms and event spaces with wifi and the latest audio visual equipment so they can be hired out for conferences, parties, weddings and meetings to raise more money
- More staff enabled to work on site around Chesterfield by providing mobile tablet or laptop devices so information can be input on to systems while on site rather than having to return to the Town Hall. This will enable the council to reduce the amount of desks and space needed by staff in the Town Hall, as well as reduce the amount of paperwork needed.
- Work carried out to safely remove asbestos from the building in areas where the refurbishment will take place. The asbestos is currently safely encased so poses no risk to the public or staff but refurbishment work would disturb it so the materials will be safely removed by specialist contractors before any building work takes place.
The income from the project would be on top of that already generated by having four voluntary sector organisations based in the basement of the Town Hall building.
Councillor Ken Huckle, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for business transformation, said: “Since 2010 the council has had its central Government funding cut by more than 40 per cent and the scale of the budget reductions will increase even further between now and 2020.
“Unless the council can find new ways of generating income these cuts will inevitably impact heavily on the frontline services we provide. So residents would rightly expect us to look at all options to generate income and make better use of the buildings we have rather than make cuts to services or make people redundant.
“The Town Hall was not designed to meet the needs of modern working practices and so we also need to take this opportunity to replace the old wiring and IT infrastructure and put in place facilities that will enable us to reduce the running costs of the building so that more of the money we do have is going on running services rather than running buildings.”
If the plans for the £2.74 million project are approved by councillors work will start in January. The project would take around 12 months to complete.
The building work would be carried out by the council’s own in-house Operational Service Division team, ensuring the project supports local jobs and the Chesterfield economy.
The council did consider other options including moving staff to a newer building with lower running costs but these have all been ruled out, subject to the approval of councillors.
Councillor John Burrows, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, said: “In common with all buildings of its age the Town Hall was constructed using asbestos containing materials.
“While all asbestos is encased so poses no current risk to the public or staff the asbestos containing materials would be disturbed by building work so will need safely removing by specialist contractors before the main work is carried out.
“Knowing that there is asbestos in the building which needs properly and safely managing we did consider other options to this refurbishment plan, such as moving staff to a new building, but we have ruled them out as they are not practical alternatives. This plan will reduce the running costs of the Town Hall building while generating much needed additional income that can be used on providing council services to the public.”