Trust could end up running historic Guildhall

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A TRUST could be set up to take on the running of York’s historic Guildhall when the city council shifts its operations to a new multi-million pound headquarters.

A decision to recruit an outside organisation to oversee the Grade I listed building would help curb taxpayers’ expenditure on the Guildhall amid concerns over its running costs. Senior councillors will meet in the new year to discuss the future of the Grade I listed building, which is currently at the heart of the city’s civic services. Market testing is then due to be take place to look into the possibility of setting up a trust.

The council’s cabinet member for corporate services, Coun Julie Gunnell, stressed the proposals are at an initial stage, and was adamant the council wants to keep ownership of the Guildhall.

But she added: “The Guildhall is a wonderfully historic building and this is a fantastic opportunity. We want to make sure it stays in the public realm, and we will be looking at the best course of action once we have conducted the market testing.”

While the current proposals are in their early stages, discussions over the Guildhall’s future have stretched back more than five years. The Yorkshire Post revealed in 2006 that a review was being planned to look into the building’s management once the council had completed its long-awaited relocation. The overall project to create a centralised base is costing £43.8m and will see West Offices, which were built in the 1840s as York’s original railway station and station hotel, transformed into the state-of-the-art headquarters.

The new building is expected to be ready in September next year, with a phased move of staff and services up until early 2013.

As part of the relocation, the council had initially planned to shift operations from 16 buildings to just four premises to save taxpayers more than £17m over the next 25 years. But revised plans announced yesterday could see the council move to just two sites – West Offices and the Eco Depot – meaning even greater savings could be achieved.

Councillors and officers will be based in the new offices, with many key meetings taking place there. But the authority still plans to retain the use of the Guildhall’s Council Chamber for full council meetings.

The council’s cabinet will meet on January 10 to discuss the proposals.