West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), which oversees large transport and infrastructure projects in the region, wants to begin its so-called Accommodation Project, which could cost more than £6.8 million of public money.
It follows a damning report from the authority into its current headquarters, which complained of “poor quality” meeting rooms, “sub-standard” offices and “inefficient” energy usage.
The plans involve refurbishing its Wellington House headquarters, and would see its staff based elsewhere be relocated to the site.
A report from WYCA officers says it plans to consolidate its offices on other sites into its current headquarters in Wellington Street, which would save money on rents, but adds big improvements were needed to make this possible.
It states: “The following key problems have also been identified: Poor quality of reception area and meeting room offer; sub-standard quality of office facilities generally which does not reflect the values and aspirations of the organisation and is perpetuating old cultures.”
There were also “Building condition issues which have been identified through a condition survey undertaken in September 2016” as well as “Inefficiency in terms of energy usage and a shortfall in ‘green’ credentials”.
It added: “Internal layouts currently preclude the co-location of directorates and teams arising through the organisational restructure; [there are] Insufficient facilities for increased staff numbers e.g. ICT network, ventilation, toilet, shower, kitchen and cycle facilities; Accessibility issues including sub-standard lifts which are unable to deliver full accessibility.”
An extra 51 staff would be relocated from WYCA’s current offices in City Exchange, for which the lease is set to run out in May 2020.
A report into the work stated: “The selected preferred option was to fully refurbish Wellington House and as part of the construction contract address a number of identified building condition issues with a view to remaining in the building for the next [circa] 15 years.
“At this point the combined authority should reassess the value of Wellington House following the arrival of HS2 and consider whether it continues to be fit for purpose as the combined authority’s head office.
“In June 2018 the combined authority approved the outline business case. Members were of the view that there are key wider benefits of the scheme in relation to the advantage of holding a central Leeds location which is readily accessible to be able to host key committee meetings and to assist in attracting inward investment to the city region.
“Since then, further detailed design work has been undertaken on the preferred option and the scheme cost is £6.847 million.”
It added: “The project aims to deliver value for money through consolidating staff in one building, thereby allowing the current annual lease costs for City Exchange to be removed.
“Cost savings will be realised through the release of City Exchange. Energy cost savings will also accrue through the combination of Wellington House being more energy efficient, coupled with the inclusion of photo voltaic panels. Future maintenance cost savings will also be realised through condition works which form part of the scheme.
“The tender construction works have been competitively tendered to ensure value for money.”
A decision is set to be made on whether to create a full business case and final proposals at WYCA’s investment committee meeting next week.