By Sam Rkaina, Local Government Reporter / firstname.lastname@example.org
A BRISTOL city council project that was supposed to save £2.5 million by selling off its office buildings has been condemned as “inadequate and flawed”.
The authority had hoped to cut the number of buildings it uses from 52 to 17 by 2014/15, as part of the four-year, £70-million savings plan.
The “new ways of working” plan was also supposed to cut the number of staff based at office “workstations” by a third, by having more people working from home.
Some savings have been made though, mainly from the sale of nine buildings including College House, Weir House and Kings House. These are expected to raise £725,000 and save on £1.3 million of annual running costs.
But a damning report has said the programme will not save as much money as the council had hoped. when it was given the go-ahead three years ago.
The report, by strategic director for neighbourhoods Graham Sims, says initial assumptions about costs involved “have proved, with experience, to be inadequate and flawed”.
The council was supposed to find a way of accommodating around 4,750 full-time equivalent posts in the remaining 17 offices. But this wasn’t properly thought through either, the report says.
Mr Sims said: “The business case failed to deal with how the reduced accommodation estate would house the staff population.”
“This means the programme as envisaged would stop well short of the reduction in building numbers.
“Cost estimates within the business case were low. Actual experience has shown costs are significantly exceeding the business case estimates.”
The report, to be considered by the resources scrutiny commission tomorrow, says a new plan is being put together for the cabinet meeting in December. No figures have been provided for how much the council now expects to save, and the report does not go into any great detail about what changes will be necessary to meet the savings target.
Council spokesman James Easey said: “In terms of detail, as the report states this is exactly what the new business case is working up. This is scheduled for cabinet in January, if not before. A lot has changed since the first report was drawn up in 2008 – key one is the reduction in staff and budget savings, so it makes sense to look at this issue again.”
“The rationale of the project – i/e looking at how the council will be operating in a few years and what buildings are therefore necessary is even more valid now – and many local authorities are doing similar projects around the country. New business case will therefore reflect this.
He added it was important to stress it has already delivered £1.3 million in savings in running costs plus £725,000 in capital receipts.
“If this council can replicate this in future, it makes for better value for money, greater efficiency and protects services to the public.”