By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottinghamshire County Council will push forward with plans to build a multi-million-pound office building but has shaved about £7 million off its overall investment plan.
The council revealed its £27.74 million Investing in Nottinghamshire programme weeks before the start of the pandemic in 2020, with a flagship £14.7 million building at Top Wighay Farm, near Linby, at the centre of the plans.
The proposals were then put on hold and a review launched after the start of the pandemic. The the authority then published a new hybrid working strategy earlier this year.
Now the review has re-confirmed the full scale of the plans, including libraries potentially moving into other council buildings and the authority co-locating services with other Nottinghamshire councils.
The review says the council will still progress with the Top Wighay Farm building, in what it says will set a “benchmark” in meeting the authority’s carbon-neutral targets.
The council has confirmed the Top Wighay building cost has increased by £1 million to £15.7 million due to “rising construction costs”, but the review has cut about £8 million off the plan overall in other areas.
Councillor Keith Girling (Con), chairman of the economic development and asset management (EDAM) committee, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the new building is “not going to be cheap”.
However, he insists running costs over time will recoup money and provide a “fit for purpose” building.
He said: “In terms of Top Wighay, we’re still going ahead with it because it’s strategically in the right place.
“We know we will be beaten with a stick that it’s going to cost a lot of money, that it should be spent elsewhere, but we’ve got places used by parents and young kids that are not ideal.
“In some places, the floor is starting to go. We’ve got to put things right.”
Cllr Girling added “nothing is off the table” when it comes to reviewing the council’s estate and the sale of assets.
This recouping of cash was cited by finance committee chairman Cllr Richard Jackson last week as a method of reducing the authority’s long-term borrowing.
But the EDAM chairman insists one of the areas that will not see closures is libraries, though the council is looking into the possibility of some being relocated into other, local authority-led buildings.
This, he says, will help to save costs and make many county-wide buildings “multi-functional”.
It comes alongside potential plans to move some council services in Mansfield into a potential public services hub, planned by Mansfield District Council as it looks to move into the town centre.
Cllr Girling says the hub is something the county council would “very much like to be a part of”, allowing the authority to release buildings for sale elsewhere in the county.
“It’s incumbent on us to look into everything and see how we can reduce our outgoings. It’s about how we start recouping our money,” he added.
“It’s a lot of toing and froing, but eventually it will end up with services being delivered from places where they should be delivered from.
“We deliver some really serious services, and we need to be delivering them from buildings that are fit for purpose. Where we can, buildings will be multi-functional.”
Documents due before the EDAM committee next week show the plan will now cost about £20.9 million, down from its original £27,744,140 price.
The committee is recommended to review and approve the updated Investing in Nottinghamshire plan when it meets on November 2.