Kirklees Council is to mothball or demolish and sell off surplus office buildings as staff move to permanent ‘hybrid’ working.

As part of cost-cutting agreed in the budget for 2023-24 savings have to be made in office accommodation.

And the cost-cutting won’t stop in the latest financial year as the council hunts down savings for 2024-25.

Kirklees Council will look to centralise staffing in the Civic Centre campus in Huddersfield town centre and is to review office accommodation in Dewsbury and Batley too.

Nothing is off the table and as part of a wider strategic review the council will look at the future of its four expensive-to-run town halls – Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley and Cleckheaton.

A report to the council’s Cabinet on Tuesday March 14 outlines the ‘asset rationalisation savings.’

The council has already saved money with developments ahead of work on the £210 million Cultural Heart in Huddersfield town centre.

The closure of the old library and art gallery building in the Piazza and the transfer of the library to the Customer Service Centre has meant significant savings, along with the closure of Queensgate Market.

Queensgate Market

Perseverance House in St Andrew’s Road, Huddersfield, the former base for the council’s now-defunct arm’s length management company Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing, was deemed beyond economic repair and is now being demolished.

The site is within an area where the council is looking to boost economic development and the aim is to sell the land to create new jobs. It is expected to be sold for a “significant” sum.

The former Westtown Family Centre in Dewsbury – mothballed several years ago – is also being demolished and the site will be sold for housing.

The report says: “Prior to the Covid pandemic, the council operated from eight key office accommodation bases in and around Huddersfield town centre plus a number of peripheral sites, providing around 3,000 desk spaces each day.

“However, the prolonged period of the pandemic created a step change in the approach of how many organisations work, including the council and its partners.

“The shift to home working for many parts of the council and the increased reliability and capability of technology has led to a seismic change in how the council operates and has created the right environment in which significant structural changes can be made to how office accommodation is best used.

“Post-Covid, the council has been working towards a new hybrid-based system of home and office working, with teams coming together for collaborative and restorative working within an office environment when required, mixed with the flexibility of home working.

“This step change in approach has meant the council’s need for an extensive portfolio of office accommodation bases has significantly diminished, particularly in Huddersfield, leading to a number of buildings being empty or under-utilised.

“These buildings continue to require significant revenue and capital expenditure to maintain and service.”

As a result, the council plans to centralise its offices and create a Civic Campus in High Street, based on Civic Centre I and Civic Centre III. Civic Centre I has recently been refurbished and designed specifically for hybrid working.

The report seeks Cabinet approval to mothball the upstairs offices in Kirkgate Buildings in Huddersfield when elections staff move out in June 2023; mothball Riverbank Court at Aspley which hasn’t re-opened since the pandemic; and demolish the Flint Street North offices and storage buildings in Fartown – where the licensing service, environmental health and others are based – and sell the whole site for housing.

The council is also going to review its office accommodation in Dewsbury – at Dewsbury Town Hall, Dewsbury Library, the Walsh Building and leased space in Empire House – and also look at using the upper floor in Batley Library for hybrid working and hot-desking.

A review is also planned of the council’s four town halls. Huddersfield and Dewsbury have recently seen significant investment and are busy with concerts and shows. Both are also wedding venues.

Dewsbury Town Hall

The report says: “The council owns and operates a number of historic, heritage town halls that are revenue intensive to run and require significant capital in the short to medium term for refurbishment and maintenance.

“Some of these buildings are very well utilised, whilst others less so. Officers will undertake a strategic review of the function, utilisation and cost of these buildings and bring forward recommendations for consideration by Cabinet.”

The two Cabinet members responsible – Clr Paul Davies, Cabinet member for corporate services, and Clr Graham Turner, Cabinet member for regeneration – both support the proposals saying they “help contribute to alleviating the challenging financial position of the council whilst delivering capital receipts and potential for new employment and housing.”