Full Council debate on Aberdeenshire Council Office Space Strategy

Councillors have today agreed the Office Space strategy at Full Council today (26.4.2018).

Background

Last January, officers were asked to explore vacating Aberdeenshire Council from both Woodhill House, Aberdeen and Gordon House, Inverurie, and relocating both premises to a brand-new facility at Harlaw, Inverurie. Since then, the working group has met regularly to progress the options and given this due consideration. More scrutiny was applied after the local government elections and new members were given time to consider the proposals as part of a cross-party member working group.

Proposal and debate

The report recommends option 5c:
Retaining Woodhill House, with associated potential lease/shared ownership with Public Sector partners
Releasing Gordon House (Inverurie)
Undertaking a significant refurbishment of Inverurie Town Hall, turning this historic asset into a flagship focal point for the community.
Associated parking at the former Market Place School.
Releasing all existing offices in Ellon and consolidate in a new office to be constructed on the site of the former Ellon Academy Annexe.
Refurbishing Viewmount in Stonehaven, releasing Carlton House and the office space at Arduthie School, and opening a Service Point at Allardice Street. 
Formally ending plans to purchase the Inverurie Locos Ground, Harlaw Park and agreeing not to relocate Colony Park Football Club.

The report was put forward to the chamber by Council Leader Jim Gifford and an amendment tabled by Cllr Richard Thomson who called for the scoping out of a move away from Woodhill House as well as the continued progression of the Harlaw and Inverurie Town Hall options. He raised issued of the ability to utilise Woodhill House efficiently, and about the movement of staff out of towns such as Inverurie and Ellon. 

During the debate there was considerable discussion about the better dispersal of staff around Aberdeenshire, long-term savings, maximizing efficiency, and having accommodation that is fit for the future.

Other options were both debated and considered. Members spoke of the views of local businesses in Inverurie as well as making the views and opinions of local associations clear to all in the Chamber.

Meanwhile the strategy was described as an over-arching one which will benefit a number of communities and as a good news story. It was accepted that this provides a platform to ensure that Council staff and resources are based where the communities need them.

There is a robust business case supporting these proposals. Doing nothing would result in the status quo being a significant cost to the Council. This project would, if approved, save us money in the long term by reducing overheads on issues like the upkeep of old buildings, in energy costs, and repairs. 

Councillors were asked to approve the strategy in principle. The report stresses that each element will be subject to further scrutiny in the coming months before each can be considered to be finally approved.

 
Decision

The amendment was proposed and councillors were asked to vote for either the report recommendations or the amendment. The vote was:
43 for the original report recommendations
25 for the amendment
With that the report was approved.