Wales’ biggest council is set to close almost half of its 51 office buildings over the next three years as it attempts to clear a multi-million-pound maintenance backlog.
Cardiff Council has revealed it plans to sell or move out of 24 offices spread across the capital in which hundreds of its staff currently work.
The Liberal-Democrat/Plaid Cymru-run authority says it will save £1.1m per year in bills and rent from 2015-16, while also slashing carbon emissions from the council estate by 16.5%.
The council plans to spend £18m refurbishing four core buildings – County Hall, City Hall, Willcox House and Global Link – which between them have capacity for an extra 1,000 workers.
Almost £10m will be borrowed to pay for the works, while it is estimated £4.3m will be raised by selling seven council-owned buildings. A further £3.2m has been allocated in the budget.
The investment, the council said, will clear longstanding structural and maintenance backlogs and create modern, flexible office space. The remaining 23 locations will be retained.
Around 350 council staff will be relocated as a result of the changes. Unions backed the scheme, but said they would like to see more flexible working arrangements.
Councillor Mark Stephens, executive member for finance, said public access to council services would not be reduced as a result of the changes.
“Consolidating our office accommodation will result in fewer but more efficient council buildings,” he said.
From April, leases due to expire will not be renewed and council-owned buildings will start to be put up for sale.
The most prominent site to be vacated during the changes is Marland House, opposite the central bus station. The ground floor houses the council’s Housing Advice Unit, which will be relocated to a new “Citizen’s Hub” at The Friary, off Greyfriars Road in the city centre.
The council is in negotiations to purchase the privately-owned Marland House as part of its plans to demolish the eyesore and replace it with a new £10m bus station.
Among the other seven planned closures for the 2012-13 financial year is Llanrumney Housing Depot, on Mount Pleasant Lane.
Coun Stephens said the site could be redeveloped for social housing as part of the council’s ambition to spend £33m on new homes over the next five years.
In the following year, eight office buildings will be relinquished, including three office blocks on Bessemer Close, Grangetown. Coun Stephens said the entire site would be sold to private developers.
A further eight buildings will close in 2014-15, including the Wedal Road depot. However, the council is looking into whether the nearby household waste recycling centre could be moved to this larger site.
Unison branch secretary for Cardiff council, Angie Shiels, said unions were negotiating for what it considered “21st century work life balance options”.
“These will include more flexible working arrangements, with home-working, and utilising remaining council buildings, more effectively,” she said.
Opposition Labour councillors have warned landlords may struggle to re-let the buildings, but Coun Stephens said: “I don’t think we’ll end up with a lot of empty buildings.
“I think there are a lot of attractive opportunities for the owners of the buildings. There is a revival of interest in housing in the city.”
Office buildings to be given up by Cardiff council
St David’s House, Wood Street, City Centre
Bronte Hostel, Newport Road, Roath
Asylum Seeker Service, 46&48 Splott Road, Splott
Estates Services Depot, Fairfield Industrial Estate, Pentyrch
Llanrumney Housing Depot, Mount Pleasant Lane, Llanrumney
Housing Advice Unit, Marland House, Central Square
Occupational Therapy, 65 Ty Glas Avenue, Llanishen
Unit 7 Green Meadow Springs Business Park, Whitchurch
Llanrumney Housing Office, 77 Countisbury Avenue, Llanrumney
Children’s Services Administration, Greenway Road, Trowbridge
Trading Standards, 71 Bridge Street, City Centre
Training Centre, 200 Fairwater Road, Fairwater
Direct Service Unit, Bessemer Close, Grangetown
Alexander House, Excelsior Road, Gabalfa
Gabalfa House, 213A North Road, Gabalfa
International Sports Villages Offices, Cardiff Bay
Llanedeyrn Housing Office, Maelfa, Llanedeyrn
Community Alarm Building, Radyr Court, Mynachdy
Wedal Road Offices and Depot, Wedal Road, Cathays
Leaving Care, Suffolk House, Romilly Road, Canton
Youth Offending Service, Penhill Road, Llandaff