South Kesteven District Council proposes cost-saving office move but may have to pay back £2m grant

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South Kesteven District Council is planning to relocate to new offices above a cinema in a move to save taxpayers an estimated £300,000 a year in running costs, improve efficiency and improve working conditions.

The council is looking to leave its historic St Peter’s Hill accommodation in Grantham, for smaller, more cost-efficient, open-plan office space next door on the top floor of the Savoy cinema building, which it helped to see constructed in a move to promote the town’s leisure economy.

Additionally, potential partnerships with other public sector organisations are being explored to develop a Customer Service hub in the vacant ground floor units within the cinema building.

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SKDC Cabinet Members have agreed that the proposal should be presented to the annual meeting of the Full Council in May.

Leader of SKDC Coun Kelham Cooke, in front of the St Peter's Hill offices.Leader of SKDC Coun Kelham Cooke, in front of the St Peter's Hill offices.
Leader of SKDC Coun Kelham Cooke, in front of the St Peter's Hill offices.

As part of the cinema development project the council received a £2 million grant, approved by the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), with the aim of delivering an education centre, but this may now have to be paid back.

The Leader of the Council, Coun Kelham Cooke, said: “This is an exciting time for SKDC, as it brings potential for growth and opportunity and regeneration of an existing site in the town centre.

“SKDC strives to be a local employer of choice and the planned move is a perfect time to revisit and strengthen the council’s culture by building on the spirit of change and possibility that business relocation brings.

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“The new office space will cater to every employee's needs through the creation of an open layout that encourages collaboration, whilst also providing quiet work areas.

“The main office location at St Peter’s Hill no longer meets the business needs of the council. It is an ageing asset that now requires significant investment if it is to provide modern, good quality, adaptable and flexible workspaces.

“The proposed move would reduce our ongoing running costs, making more efficient use of taxpayers’ money. Crucially, there will also be a reduction in our carbon footprint – a key priority for us.”

Coun Cooke said working practices adopted in response to the pandemic had shown that the council operates in a more agile way and no longer requires such large premises.

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He said: “The change to a mix of home and office-based working means that for the council to continue to be an employer of choice in a competitive employment market, offering attractive life-work balance and improving the quality of the office accommodation is increasingly important.

“Staff welfare is a priority for the council and this move would provide our workforce with a modern working environment.

“The offices next to the cinema building will provide enough space for our needs and would enable us to save money on operating costs which, in a challenging financial landscape, we could use to protect the services we provide for residents and businesses.”

SKDC has moved to a hybrid arrangement, with officers’ time split between home and office working.

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The council says local Trade Unions have given their support to the move.

It had been expected that the University of Lincoln would lease the cinema complex office space as an education centre but it has confirmed that, whilst it is committed to supporting the learning agenda in Grantham, it no longer requires the extensive, available office space.

A university spokesperson said: "The University provides a range of programmes to support businesses and local economies, including our innovative Executive Development programme, which we have delivered in Grantham. The university will continue to work with local authorities such as SKDC to find opportunities to sustain this important work in the future."

Discussions are ongoing with the LEP Investment Board on the way forward regarding repayment of the grant and the re-purposing of the building.

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