Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting COUNTY GAZETTE to 80360 or email us
County Hall could move to unused regional fire centre in Taunton
8:50am Thursday 26th September 2013 in News
SOMERSET County Council could sell off or rent out its Taunton HQ and relocate staff to never-used edge-of-town premises originally built as a 999 regional fire call centre.
If the move from County Hall to the centre in Blackbrook goes ahead, it will cut the council’s costs – and save taxpayers millions of pounds.
Renting or buying commercial or public offices such as the ‘white elephant’ fire control centre or moving to a new building at Firepool are among options being considered by the county, which has already cut services and shed staff to bring down spending.
Other possibilities include: *demolishing surplus space such as C Block and ICT huts and basing services in area offices like Deane House; *selling part of County Hall, for example A Block, and consolidating offices on the remainder of the site; *creating a ‘public sector campus’ by leasing space to the police, fire service, probation, central Government bodies and Taunton Deane Council, even extending buildings to house them; *staying put and boarding up A and/or C Blocks.
A confidential paper seen by the County Gazette says C Block will be “cleared in anticipation of Cabinet’s decision” in November.
A county spokesman said: “Somerset County Council has been very clear over the past few years that all options for the most effective and efficient use of its buildings are being considered.
“No decisions have been taken and we are still investigating to ensure any decision made is in the best interests of the people of Somerset.”
An insider, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Could the regional fire centre finally get a new tenant after so much waste of money?
“A boarded up County Hall in the centre of town wouldn’t look great – and how would English Heritage view that in a listed building?
“Is this another symbol of the decline of Taunton as Somerset’s county town, with the loss of so many public sector jobs upon which the local economy was dependent and without a Plan B?”
*THE regional fire control centre, built in 2007 to replace seven centres across the South-West, was one of nine nationwide that never fielded any 999 calls before being scrapped. The empty Blackbrook building costs taxpayers £137,000 a month, with the final bill topping £23million if a new occupant isn’t found before the lease runs out in 2027.
*THE listed A Block at County Hall was built in 1935, when the county council moved out of the smaller Shire Hall next door, which is still used for some of its meeting. The other blocks followed later and are not listed.
*TAUNTON Deane Council is reviewing its use of office space – it has looked at moving out and selling Deane House or renting out space to other organisations.
*THE police, who are moving hundreds of Taunton-based staff to Bridgwater, are keen to find smaller premises in the county town, although talks to move into Deane House broke down.
Comments are closed on this article.