Council to let out Portsmouth civic centre offices to help cut costs

ALL CHANGE Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson and regeneration boss Kathy Wadsworth in front of office space at the Civic Offices which is to be let out to new businesses. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (14865-9)
ALL CHANGE Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson and regeneration boss Kathy Wadsworth in front of office space at the Civic Offices which is to be let out to new businesses. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (14865-9)

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A THIRD of Portsmouth City Council’s civic offices will be let out to businesses in the coming months.

The Brunel wing, which spans part of the Guildhall Square pathway connecting it to Isambard Brunel Road, will be rented to businesses in a bid to raise money for the authority and give start-ups as well as established businesses quality office space in the city centre.

That is according to Kathy Wadsworth, the council’s strategic director for regeneration.

Ms Wadsworth told The News: ‘The public sector is shrinking. Authorities such as ours are reducing in staff numbers and we have the civic centre, which is a large building.

‘To reduce costs, we have been bringing more and more staff into the civic offices and therefore selling off property to reduce our running costs and get capital for it.’

Around 600 people work in the wing, which means the authority has to look at different ways of working for officers before it can move new organisations into the space.

Desk sharing, flexible and remote working are all being explored. The change will help the council develop a ‘more modern workforce’.

‘We’ve started to empty the wing and that will probably take about nine months,’ said Ms Wadsworth. ‘We don’t want to get it wrong.’

Discussions have already begun between the council and interested businesses.

Both start-ups and established firms will be welcomed to enter bids for the office space.

‘The bottom line is there are so many wins for us. There is going to be more mobile working for officers which our customers are wanting. We will be saving money.

‘It could be all sorts of businesses coming in.

‘We want it to be really modern and I think there is a myth that says Portsmouth is not a good place for office space.

‘If we make it a quality office and make it really attractive, it will be filling up and people will want to locate their business with us.’

Leader of the authority, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said the decision would save money and reduce the need for cuts elsewhere.

‘What we are trying to do is sell off other buildings and get more people to work in the civic centre, but we have been losing a couple of hundred staff a year so we have got more space here now,’ he said.