Council is effectively a business

PUBLISHED: 10:50 08 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:32 25 May 2010

RE: POSSIBLE council relocation of offices to Clevedon. I have read with interest and concern the comments in your paper over the past weeks regarding the office move and am prompted to write again.

RE: POSSIBLE council relocation of offices to Clevedon. I have read with interest and concern the comments in your paper over the past weeks regarding the office move and am prompted to write again.

North Somerset Council is effectively a business and should be run by the board/ directors i.e. executive/councillors - our, the council tax payers', appointed representatives.

I reiterate I can see and acknowledge the logic of consolidation as any prudent business should consider in these harsh economic times, but fail to understand how this can be applied if no details are available, even to the directors, who are to make a decision to acquire a substantial building by raising finance which we must fund.

The harsh reality is that if the council acquire Castlewood at a cost of some £16million, not only will they have to fund the acquisition costs - interest on capital and management/insurance - they will also have to pay business rates. Although these are collected by North Somerset, this is on behalf of Central Government. The rateable value (determined by the district valuer) will rise from a current figure of £1,070,000 to £1,130,000 from April 1, making annual payments in excess of £500,000, i.e. some £10,000 per week. This will apply regardless of the number of employees on site. It is not difficult therefore to predict the finance and running costs of such a building will be measured in millions of pounds.

These figures cannot be questioned but they are only the tip of the iceberg. Other costs to be taken into account which are tangible and calculable include staff relocation costs; fitting out costs; reprinting of stationery; office furniture and equipment; telecom and IT costs.

However, by far the more important, are the impact costs on Weston which can only be estimated but will include:

Significantly increased traffic at Junction 21 of the M5 at St Georges - making egress/access from/to the town more difficult than at present.

The effect of increasing the already significant availability of office premises.

The market perception that not even North Somerset Council consider Weston a suitable office location.

The knock-on effect that investors/developers will have second thoughts about acquisitions, redevelopment or development in the town which might result in a reluctance to undertake such work, e.g. development of Dolphin Square.

The loss of perhaps 600 potential customers for the hard pressed shops, cafes and restaurants around the town who will lose potential lunch-time visitors, whilst still having to pay higher rates and overheads.

Surely if an acquisition of this magnitude is contemplated it should be properly costed and explained not only to all the councillors who have the responsibility to vote as our representatives, but also to all of us - the council taxpayers.

I conclude, by reiterating my instinctive concern for an ill conceived and fundamentally flawed proposal which will have a devastating effect on Weston and - therefore - some 50 per cent of the population of North Somerset. I urge all councillors to consider and weigh up the consequences of such a move before voting in favour. I remain committed to Weston and therefore North Somerset and sincerely hope commonsense will prevail.

M T RIPLEY

Stephen & Co

Next Town Hall, Walliscote Road, Weston

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