New dawn for council as services centralised on one site

A NEW era for a Yorkshire council will begin on Monday when its multi-million pound headquarters opens to the public – nearly five years after original plans for the relocation were aborted.

York Council has transformed one of the city’s most important buildings from the industrial revolution into a state-of-the-art base to centralise its operations and save millions of pounds in rents which it has been paying with civic services spread across 17 premises.

The long-awaited relocation to the headquarters in West Offices, which were built in the 1840s as York’s original railway station and station hotel, has been heralded as vital to streamlining the authority’s operations.

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Initial plans for a new base on the city’s Hungate development were abandoned in July 2008 after concerns over the scale of proposed office block were raised by English Heritage. The council was forced to go back to the drawing board, before the new site was chosen. The move will save taxpayers more than £17m over the next 25 years, and the West Offices scheme has secured glowing praise from English Heritage.

Council leader James Alexander said: “I’m proud that when we open the doors of the customer centre on Monday, we will be able to offer our customers a truly 21st century experience in a modern, welcoming, accessible environment, meeting the needs and expectations of our residents and in one location.”

Chief executive Kersten England claimed the move to centralise services will help the council become “as efficient as possible”.

It has taken 20 months to transform the Grade II* listed building into the £32m offices, and the relocation’s overall cost is expected to be £44m.

The move will reduce the number of the council’s buildings from 17 to just two. The authority, which is having to make £20m in cuts over the next two financial years, has been paying crippling £1m-a-year rents with its operations scattered across the city. The money used to rent buildings will be ploughed into repaying the cost of the relocation.