Council’s move to Ashington set to be signed off

County Hall in Morpeth.
County Hall in Morpeth.

The headquarters of Northumberland County Council will be relocated to Ashington if the conclusions of an independent report are accepted by the authority’s policy board next month.

The report on the move from the current base at County Hall in Morpeth will also be considered by the council’s economic prosperity and strategic services overview and scrutiny committee next Tuesday.

The report’s conclusions are based on work undertaken by independent consultants, who calculated that all the alternative locations offer savings to the council in the region of £10million to £14million over 25 years.

The greatest benefit would be generated by moving the council HQ to a new location – with the biggest benefit of relocation the ‘gross value added’ impact.

Consultants ERS calculated that moving the council’s headquarters to Ashington would bring a positive economic impact worth £52.8million to the town. At the same time, releasing the current County Hall campus site for development would give Morpeth a positive economic impact worth £56million.

Three alternatives were investigated in detail for providing a smaller and more efficient office space for the council’s headquarters. These were: Demolishing one wing of the existing building and refurbishing the remaining offices; replacing the offices with a new building somewhere on the existing site; or replacing the offices on an alternative site.

Northumberland County Council’s lead executive director, Steven Mason, said: “The difference in running costs in keeping County Hall in Morpeth compared to a number of other locations is marginal, but when the overall economic impact of the relocation is taken into account the case is very strong.

“The council will require a different approach to office working and office space over the next four years. We anticipate that officers will work more flexibly from different locations around the county, bringing our services and staff closer to communities. There will be opportunities to develop office space with ‘touch-down’ and shared space across the county. Fewer workstations will be needed at the corporate headquarters.

“Importantly, money saved on property can reduce the impact on services of the challenging council budget reductions that have to be made in the coming years.”