The government has today unveiled plans for a major downsizing project that will see 1,600 employees moved to a new 11,000sqm HQ in a bid to save millions and free up scores of sites for affordable housing.
But the sites being eyed up for the new headquarters and the overall budget for the project, which will see 21 office sites shrunk to seven over the next decade, remain unclear.
The Council of Ministers approved the plan, which has so far cost £310,000 to develop, this week. It was announced to government employees this morning, with media only allowed to reveal the plans to the public at midday today.
Pictured: The plans will apparently lead to "savings" of £30million in capital costs over the next three decades.
Officials claim it will lead to savings of £7million a year in running costs and £30million in capital costs over the next 30 years.
Nine sites in the government’s current property portfolio will be considered for affordable, private and key worker housing and commercial development, and could reportedly generate up to £28.5m if sold:
The government will also be exiting its lease from current HQ Broad Street, The Parade, Durrell House, Eagle House, Liberté House and Bermuda House “over the next four or five years”.
Pictured: The fate of La Motte Street remains unclear.
The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, told Express that among the buildings certain to remain will be Morier House, which is due to undergo refurbishment, including providing a dedicated space for States Members.
Offices at Howard Davis Farm, La Collette, Piquet House, Sir Peter Crill House and Beresford House will also continue to be used.
The fate of La Motte Street, which was turned into a ‘One Front Door’ customer services hub last year, is yet to be addressed, however.
Senator Le Fondré said the government did not have a “specific site” in mind for the new HQ, but were instead keen to find out what developers can offer in terms of location and price – the latter he described as a “big factor”. The only criteria, he said, was that it should remain in St. Helier, and make a regenerative contribution to the area.
The government will officially begin its search for a developer to take the project forward next month, with the Council of Ministers having agreed funding of £571,000 for procurement.
Pictured: The SOJDC, which has access to plots of land at the Waterfront and Esplanade, was consulted on the plans.
Among those likely to put forward proposals is the States of Jersey Development Company, which Express was told was consulted on the plans before they were officially approved by Ministers.
The government-backed body has access to as yet undeveloped land on the Esplanade – home to two International Finance Centre blocks – and recently acquired the Waterfront Leisure Complex for around £15million.
Senator Le Fondré declined to reveal the figure in mind for the overall budget of the office development project “at this stage” in a bid to acquire “the best price and value” from developers.
He similarly refused to reveal details on the method of funding – other than to state that three types were being considered – for commercial sensitivity reasons.
Pictured: The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, worked on an office modernisation project in his role as Assistant Minister as many as 10 years ago.
Despite a large-scale site being sought, the Chief Minister said he didn’t believe there would be a clash with any of those likely to be considered for the Future Hospital.
The project taking “a significant step forward” is somewhat of a personal victory for Senator Le Fondré, who had been looking at modernising the government’s office estate in his role as Assistant Minister as many as 10 years ago.
After many years of discussion, and a number of strategy reports produced by successive Councils of Ministers, Senator Le Fondré said he was “pleased” that the project finally began in earnest earlier this year with a project team examining a range of scenarios - from ‘doing nothing’ but maintain the existing estate, through to an entirely new build by a third-party developer.
Details of these scenarios were not revealed to Express on grounds of “commercial sensitivity”.
“There has been woeful underinvestment in the Government’s office estate over many years and this Government is sorting out that legacy. Too many of our staff work in a poor-quality environment in old offices, with poor wellbeing facilities, poor energy efficiency and limited disability access. In short, they are no longer fit for purpose,” Senator Le Fondré commented.
Pictured: Former HQ Cyril Le Marquand House.
“Consolidating our office estate will release sites for much-needed affordable housing and other development and could save up to £7 million a year of taxpayers’ money, while providing a modern working environment for our staff.
“This is another example of how this Government proposes to invest for long-term benefits, modernising, improving and delivering better value for money.”
Officials say the new project has “strict governance”, with the project team – comprised of a Development Manager, Commercial/Procurement Officer, Project Support Officer, Project Governance Officer, Procurement Lawyer and Commercial Agent - reporting through a Project Board.
They declined to name the members of the team.
The project team will also report to the One Government Political Oversight Group and the Council of Ministers, and is reportedly “applying lessons from reports into previous capital projects by the Comptroller and Auditor General”.
The news comes months after States Members voted to remove the area of Ann Court from the list of frontrunners for the new HQ in favour of creating housing there.
Pictured: The Ann Court HQ that could have been.
The debate was described as a clash of "hearts and minds", with States Members split 26 to 20.
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