Council's Leamington HQ project delay will cost hundreds of thousands each year

Warwick District Council’s decision to delay its move from Riverside House in Leamington to a new HQ on the site of the existing Covent Garden car park nearby means savings of at least £385,000 need to be found every year.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 5:30 am
Updated Thursday, 19th December 2019, 9:26 am
Artist's impression of the proposed new Warwick District Council HQ building in Leamington.

And councillors at this week’s (Tuesday December 17) finance and audit scrutiny committee were also told that additional money will also be needed to pay for repairs needed at the two sites with £325,993 required in the next year alone.

It was announced in the autumn that the HQ move was on hold pending the outcome of a review into the development of the sites which was being done in partnership with a private company, Public Sector PLC.

A report to the scrutiny meeting highlighted a number of issues surrounding the current council offices and the multi-storey car park in the centre of Leamington which is suffering from corrosion and alkali silica reaction (ASR) - more commonly known as concrete cancer.

The Covent Garden car park in Leamington.

It explained how the two issues were linked after a decision at full council in April 2016 agreed to relocate which would have allowed Riverside House, which was allocated for housing in the Local Plan, to be available for development.

The Covent Garden site would have consisted of a new larger multi-storey car park, apartments and an office block providing new HQ offices. This would also have seen the district council vacate Leamington Town Hall where meetings are held.

The report added: “The HQ relocation was scheduled to deliver £300,000 per annum of revenue savings to the General Fund and also facilitate the relocation of council functions from the Town Hall, saving a further £85,000 per annum.”

The top two floors of the Covent Garden car park have been closed since 2015 for safety reasons and a survey carried out the following year explained there would be substantial costs associated with keeping it open for ‘any length of time’ - £2.3m with £814,000 needed within three years.

These figures were a factor in the relocation decision with it being more cost effective to replace the car park than repair it.

Other costs have also been highlighted including an estimated £1.89m that would need spending on Riverside House over the next five years if the move does not happen in that time.

The report, from deputy chief executive Bill Hunt,added: “The building also has an extremely high carbon footprint and the above sums are likely to increase significantly were carbon reduction measures to be included in the maintenance programme.”

And it concluded: “If the project does not progress this will increase the level of savings (or income) to be found by £385,000 per annum on a recurring basis.”