A RADICAL plan to sell off outdated public buildings has been launched by South Tyneside Council.
The three-year property plan will, council bosses say, create fewer but more energy-efficient frontline service buildings in the borough.
The building will be paid for by the sale of old properties which are expensive to run or no longer meet residents’ needs.
That process has already begun with the imminent demolition of Wouldhave House in the Market Place, South Shields.
The majority of BT South Tyneside staff based there have now moved to Hawthorn House on Jarrow’s Viking Industrial Estate.
In a similar scheme, the council’s Youth Offending Service has vacated Commercial House in Commercial Road, South Shields, and moved into the town’s Gordon House.
The policy will also result in the re-location of 500 staff into South Shields Town Hall – which itself is to undergo a facelift.
The programme, which is aimed at avoiding carbon reduction penalties and bringing a major reduction in the council’s annual maintenance bill, will result in an overall reduction in spending.
Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for Resources and Innovation, said: “The council has made £75m in savings over the past three years, by radically changing the way we work as an organisation, while protecting and improving the services people rely on.
“This is a long-term strategy, working with other organisations to identify buildings that no longer meet residents’ needs, using the savings to ensure we retain buildings that are efficient and fit for purpose.
“This approach means we can avoid spending good money on poor quality buildings, as well as improving energy efficiency, cutting maintenance costs and improving services, without any increase in spending.”
The strategy includes a two-year programme of work to improve South Shields Town Hall, making it possible to accommodate about 500 additional staff, while ensuring that it meets modern health and safety requirements.
Many of these staff are based in other council buildings that are smaller or more expensive to run.