Council offices set to move into shopping centre

Southend’s civic offices are set to be moved into the Victoria Shopping Centre, it has been revealed.

The council, which has already mothballed the top five storeys of the Civic Centre in Victoria Avenue, is set to quit the rest of the building over the next five years.

A report to Southend Council’s cabinet, which will meet on Tuesday, shows £250,000 will be used to explore how the council can utilise three floors of the south east corner of the Victoria Centre, which the council bought in 2020.

No official decision on the future of the Civic Centre has been made, but housing has not been ruled out.

The phased move could initially see some staff move back into the Civic Centre from other buildings such as Civic 2 – a smaller building behind the Civic Centre.

This would bring initial savings and allow the council to know exactly how much space it would need at the Victoria Shopping Centre.

Paul Collins, Lib Dem cabinet member for asset management and inward investment, said: “With the further advent of technology, global changes to working arrangements and the financial challenge we face, it is clear that the Civic Centre and Civic 2 are no longer efficient buildings for the council to use in the long-term.

“Rapid increases in energy prices have seen the electricity bill for the Civic Centre almost treble to over £800,000 over the last three years. This is an exciting project that would save us significant sums in the medium to long term but also build on the success of the Victoria Centre and see a new council HQ right in the heart of the city centre that is more appropriately sized and more accessible for citizens.”

The council’s projected deficit has been cut from £14million to £12million and it is hoped consolidating council offices into the shopping centre will help reduce that figure further.

The repositioning of the civic offices would mean up to an estimated 300 to 400 more people a day in the vicinity of multi-storey shopping and the city centre which could result in a boost in trade for businesses.

New tenants and the centre include Indirock, the NHS Blood Centre, Cookies & Cones, SpyMissions, Brook Health, Mossy’s Shoes and Gourmet Burger.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter