Aberdeenshire Council could sell off its Woodhill House HQ to help fill a multimillion-pound budget black hole.
The £21million property could be put on the market as the local authority battles to make savings of £50million over the next four years.
Its SNP-led administration will lay out spending priorities at a meeting of the full council at the building in Aberdeen’s Westburn Road later today.
Aberdeenshire Council is the only local authority in Scotland which has its headquarters outwith its own area.
Today senior councillors will put forward their case to end the unusual arrangement.
Speaking on the eve of the meeting, administration co-leader and Independent councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes said: “A top priority for us will be our managing of the estate, the physical places that Aberdeenshire Council currently occupies.
“It’s always been an issue with the council HQ – why are we based in Aberdeen City? It’s not even our area. We want a comprehensive look at it. There are no sacred cows.
“It’s a big piece of work – we have way too many properties within Aberdeenshire and many people will say ‘do we need a building of the size of Woodhill house going forward?’.”
Fellow co-leader and SNP councillor Richard Thomson echoed Mr Kitts-Hayes’s comments.
He said: “It’s perfectly feasible to work without a central HQ.
“We’ll always have a building where we’ll transact our council business, to that extent there will always be a civic centre, but whether it needs to be Woodhill House is something we will look at very closely.”
Today’s pre-budget discussion is the first since the SNP-led coalition seized power earlier this year.
The overhaul of the council estate would also include closing and consolidating offices in towns across the region.
In Ellon alone, there are more than a dozen offices owned or leased by Aberdeenshire Council.
In Peterhead – the region’s largest town – the local authority has already started the process.
The new £5.5million Buchan House office building opened earlier this year, but allowed the administration to save money by selling off properties across the town.
Mr Thomson said: “Aberdeenshire has a very high number of properties, some of which it has inherited and some of which – let’s be honest – are no longer fit to deliver services.”
He said the administration “wouldn’t be doing its duty” if it allowed running costs to spiral out of control.
“Woodhill House opened in the early 1970s and it carries problems with it you would expect of buildings of that age,” he added.
“If there’s a way to work from other locations which reduces running costs and makes a more effective environment for our staff to work in, that’s absolutely something we have to look at.”
It is understood the 15-acre site in Westburn Road is worth about £21.6million.
The value of the buildings has tumbled by more than £10million since the early 1990s.
There is 170,000sq ft of office space inside, some of which is already leased to local businesses.
But if the site was sold in its entirety, it is likely the 40-year-old structure would be torn down to make way for a replacement office block, houses or even a shopping centre.
Mr Kitts-Hayes – who acted as deputy council leader in the previous administration – said slimming-down Aberdeenshire’s property portfolio would also help regenerate the region.
The co-leaders believe if Woodhill House is disposed of, staff will disperse to local offices and spend money in the local communities.
Council buildings in towns including Peterhead, Ellon, Inverurie and Stonehaven could be sold to local businesses.
The local authority is facing a funding shortfall of more than £50million over the next four years, and about £17.5million of spending needs to be cut for 2016.