£14m of property up for sale as Lancashire County Council aims to save £65m
It could be the sale of the century as Lancashire flogs off some of the family silver to pay the bills.
But County Hall bosses insist they have little option, after being hit with crippling cuts to their budget from Central Government.
The authority’s 500-item corporate property portfolio could be trimmed by a fifth with up to 100 buildings going under the hammer in a massive restructuring of the way services are delivered across the county.
Officers have drawn up a preliminary list of 220 premises – libraries, childrens and young people’s centres, offices, day care centres for the elderly and disabled and conferencing facilities – which could figure in the review and raise up to £14m.
The plan is to cut those by half to create 112 multi-functional neighbourhood centres where services could be combined under one roof.
The rest would be vacated or sold to raise funds to plug gaps in the county’s budget caused by £65m of savings demanded over the next two years.
LCC deputy leader Coun David Borrow revealed that sharing resources was the key to making the strategy work. “We need to work with parner organisations to see where there are opportunities to co-locate.”
Those organisations, he said, would range from the voluntary sector to the NHS. Talks had already gone on with district council leaders to assess support for the plan and they were keen to participate.
All the county’s 75 libraries are on the list. Many could become neighbourhood centres, although others appear doomed to closure as the library service undergoes its most radical shake-up ever.
Ten youth zones across the county are also included, along with 31 young people’s centres, 48 children’s centres, 14 disabled day centres and 11 older people’s day centres – including the Lady Elsie Finney Day Centre in Cottam, Preston.
Matthew Tidmarsh, head of asset management at County Hall, stressed no decisions had yet been reached on which properties would become neighbourhood centres. The list of premises being considered was, he said, part of a consultation process.
Coun Borrow added: “We are willing to talk to anybody anywhere about better working together in order to get the best value we can for people of Lancashire. We just need to make it work.”
The authority says its property portfolio, excluding schools, is a “significant asset” comprising around 500 operational sites.
“It is likely that in the coming years the ability to operate from these various sites will be severely diminished as a result of budgetary challenges facing all service areas,” said a report.
On Thursday the full council will be asked to approve a new corporate strategy outlining how services will be delivered in future through the creation of neighbourhood centres.
“As a consequence it is sensible to consider the extent of this portfolio and determine how a targeted reduction could be best achieved.
“The proposed strategy considers how this could be undertaken and recommends the transformation of certain premises into neighbourhood centres which would provide a range of targeted front-facing publicly accessed council services compared with the present approach which relies heavily on single function premises.
“A smaller property portfolio would deliver sustained annual savings by reducing running costs including rent, rates and ultilities. Approval of the proposed strategy would enable detailed analysis and consultation to identify the candidates for inclusion in the neighbourhood centres portfolio and, by exception, which premises would be recommended for disposal.
“Not approving the draft strategy would mean the county council is potentially unable to progress work to ensure the delivery of appropriately targeted and financially viable services for the future.”
At present the total annual running costs of the 220 premises on the list comes to £6.4m. The new plan could save almost £2m of that. The sale of vacated premises could realise between £11m and £14m, although terminating leases on some properties could cost between £1m and £1.5m.
The city could lose six of its 22 LCC service buildings under the new strategy.
CENTRAL: Six premises in the city’s central area would become five neighbourhood centres if the plan is approved, meaning one would be disposed of.
The half dozen include the Harris Library and the property at 58/60 Guildhall Street which houses the county’s Trading Standards Department, a youth offending team, welfare rights and young people’s services.
Also on the list are the registrar and records office in Bow Lane, the Ribblebank Disability Day Centre in Gerrard Street, the Ripon Street Children and Parenting Support Service premises and the Riverbank Children’s Centre in Brieryfield Road.
EAST: Seven buildings have been included on the list in the east of the city, but all seven would be retained as neighbourhood centres. They include Ribbleton Childrens Centre, Ribbleton Library, Moor Nook Young People’s Centre and Preston SureStart satellite children’s centres in Fishwick and St Matthews.
WEST: LCC premises in the west of the city could be badly-hit with only three neighbourhood centres being created from seven properties on the list.
These include the famous Lady Elise Finney House Old People’s Day Centre, named in memory of the wife of Preston’s greatest son Sir Tom Finney, in Cottam Avenue, Cottam. Others include Ingol and Savick Libraries, the Scientific Services building in Peddars Way, Lancashire’s Certificate Centre in Quayside Court, Ashton Young Person’s Centre in Tulketh Crescent and Preston West Children’s Centre on Ainsdale Drive.
NORTH: Only two premises are on the list - Fulwood Library and Sharoe Green Library - and one of those could disappear, with only one neighbourhood centre being created.
Ten of South Ribble’s 18 properties on the list could go in one of the most swingeing shake-ups across the whole county. The cuts will mean just eight neighbourhood centres being set up to replace the 18 premises, five of those libraries.
WEST: Three out of four face the chop as LCC create just one multi-functional centre from Longton Library, Penwortham Library (Liverpool Road), Longton Children’s Centre in School Lane and Penwortham Young People’s Centre in Priory Lane.
EAST: Seven properties will become four neighbourhood centres under the plan. The list of options includes three libraries - Lostock Hall, Bamber Bridge and Penwortham Kingsfold - together with Walton-le-Dale Young People’s Centre, Kingsfold Children’s Centre, Bamber Bridge Children’s Centre and Bamber Bridge Bridge Suite Day Care Centre.
LEYLAND: As in the east of South Ribble, Leyland could lose four of its seven premises in the shake-up. The list there includes Leyland Library, Wade Hall Children’s Centre, Leyland Learning Centre, King Street Day Centre, South Ribble Youth Zone, South Ribble Day Services and Wellfield Children’s Centre.
Of all the areas in Central Lancashire, Chorley appears hardest hit by the proposed changes, losing no fewer than 12 of its 19 LCC properties.
CENTRAL: 11 buildings will be condensed into five neighbourhood centres if the proposals are passed. The 11 include Chorley Library, the town’s registrar’s office, its youth zone, the Woodlands Conference Centre, the offices of the town’s youth offending team and Coppull Library.
WEST: Five facilities will merge to form just one, meaning four could disappear. The five in the list include three libraries - Euxton, Parbold and Eccleston - as well as Eccleston Young People’s Centre and Blossomfield Children’s Centre in Eccleston.
EAST: Three premises - Clayton Green and Adlington Libraries and Brinscall Millfields Children’s Centre will become one nighbourhood centre.
Garstang Library and Garstang Young People’s Centre are on the list in Wyre Rural, while Longridge Library, Alston Hall Conference Centre and Longridge Young People’s Centre are also included in Bowland.
Kirkham and Freckleton Libraries and Weeton Camp Children’s Centre feature in the premises under consideration in Fylde East and Broughton.