Highland Council is conducting a review of its office estate in the hopes of saving more than a million pounds in operating costs.
Details have now emerged of the full scale of the proposed closures.
The council hopes to focus all its administration into five key hubs. The flagship building will be the existing headquarters in Glenurquhart Road, Inverness.
Highland Council will also retain administrative offices in Dingwall, Wick, Fort William and Portree.
However, all the council’s other administrative buildings are “in scope” for closure.
A report for the redesign board states: “The presumption will be that all
other buildings carrying out these functions are to close in the shortest reasonably
practicable timescale possible.”
The council say its work to date has already delivered £160,000 savings, and will save £1 million by the end of the next financial year.
Which buildings will close?
Highland Council has already started preparing to move staff out of offices across the region.
These include High Life Highland offices in Ardross and Dingwall.
In Inverness, the council has moved out of Culcabock Child Guidance Centre and staff will leave the Trading Standards Office and Dochfour huts by the end of March 2023.
Nairn finance office staff are moving to the local court house, and the council is looking at options to move staff out of portacabins in Dingwall too.
Up in Thurso, the council’s service point will move from the Burgh chambers to Caithness Horizons.
One of the most controversial proposals is an overhaul of Inverness Town House. In a separate report to the redesign board, the council says it’s considering whether office space is the best use for the landmark building.
Instead, Highland Council hopes to stop using the Townhouse for office space, saving £233,000 in rent payments to the common good fund, which owns the building.
More properties may go
These changes look set to deliver a six figure saving, but the Highland Council report suggests they could go even further.
Offices make up just 20% of Highland Council’s property portfolio. To deliver bigger savings, the council is also considering closures across its school estate and depots.
That operation will be trickier, and is still up for discussion.
But the other 50 small offices across Highland Council are likely to vastly reduce. The properties left behind will be put up for community asset transfer or sold on the open market.
At the same time, the council has admitted it will need to make a “significant capital investment” in its Glenurquhart Road headquarters. This is to provide more space for staff and files from other offices, and create a more modern, open plan layout.
The report does not provide figures of the planned investment in the Inverness HQ, but it’s likely to be a hot topic for discussion at the budget meeting early next year.
Are you interested in more exclusive and breaking Highland and Islands news from the P&J? If so, why not join our dedicated Facebook page HERE