The green light has been given to investigate setting up an access point for Folkestone and Hythe District Council customers in the centre of Folkestone.

The access point, which could open during the next financial year, is part of the district council’s long-term proposal to move out of the Civic Centre in Castle Hill Avenue.

At a meeting of the council’s Cabinet (Wednesday 20 January 2021), councillors agreed that detailed work be carried out on proposals to provide a customer access point and to relocate the civic offices. An access point would be particularly important for customers unable to contact the council online and in the town centre it would be close to public transport links and shops.

The move out of the Civic Centre, which was suggested last year, has been prompted by the council’s drive to reduce its carbon footprint and accelerated by the successful way in which staff have delivered services whilst working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is suggested that the council could save approximately £200,000 annually in maintenance and running costs by creating a smaller, purpose-built, carbon-efficient facility with office space, meeting rooms and a civic chamber at Otterpool Park. The building could be funded by the sale of the Civic Centre site.

F&HDC declared a climate emergency in 2019 and has identified the ageing Civic Centre as a building necessitating considerable repairs and investment over the next decade and is unlikely to ever achieve a significant reduction in carbon output.

Working from home has meant a reduction in car journeys to work by staff, resulting in a drop in council-related mileage of approximately 24,000 miles per week as well as a sizeable reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

F&HDC Leader, Councillor David Monk, said: “We need to think pragmatically about what the future of council services looks like – and where we see that happening. I’m very pleased that Cabinet councillors have agreed that officers should explore options and ensure that we are still at the heart of the community.”

David Monk

Councillor Ray Field, F&HDC Cabinet member for Digital Transformation said: “More and more customers are choosing to access information about council services at a time convenient to them as demonstrated by the excellent initial take up of the MyAccount function.

“But we also have no intention of digitally excluding anyone and that is driving our ambition for space in the heart of Folkestone. Our intention would be to work with partners and look at leasing space initially so that we can work out the best location.”

Cabinet members agreed a budget of £250,000, to be funded from council reserves, to carry out development and feasibility works for the proposed customer access point and the relocation of the Civic Centre. Detailed proposals about the plans are due be submitted to Cabinet later in the year and public and council staff consultation will form part of any process.

By Ed

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