Sheffield Council needs to spend £48m on urgent building maintenance over next five years
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The news prompted one councillor to ask “how many more Rose Garden (Cafes) are there?” following the Graves Park building’s closure over safety fears as a chief officer admitted the overall picture is “fairly bleak”.
The council aims to move staff out of Moorfoot to the Town Hall and Howden House in a bid to save £2.5m. It is looking at the Central Library as a priority and will assess 182 community buildings.
Director of direct services, Tom Smith, told the finance sub-committee that the council needs to spend an estimated £48m on buildings needing urgent maintenance work over the next five years and only £8.5m is available. Work is starting to properly assess the state of all buildings and report back to councillors in January.
Tom Smith said: “The report’s fairly bleak about this but clearly with a fairly difficult financial situation in relation to the council’s estate. We currently estimate that, as it stands, what the council owns in terms of buildings needs about £200m in future maintenance investment over five years.
“Around about £48m is highlighted as being critical and essential. That can sound really scary – we’re not doing anything that’s putting anybody at risk here, where we have identified issues we have put mitigations in place.”
He gave the example of the Town Hall, where problems were found on the two upper floors, so they are not used.
Energy costs are predicted to quadruple from £5m in 2020-21 to £20.7m in 2023-24, hitting stretched budgets.
‘How many more Rose Gardens?’
Mr Smith said: “As it stands, we can’t afford to maintain and retain what we’ve currently got. We know that Covid has fundamentally changed the way we do business as a local authority in terms of our office space, with hybrid working, the number of people working more flexibly.”
He added: “We need a smaller, more cost-effective, better-maintained and better-used estate that really, genuinely meets the needs of our customers and the people of Sheffield.”
The survey will look at how well community buildings are used and whether to ‘invest or divest’. That could include groups taking over some buildings and others being sold off.
LibDem group leader Cllr Shaffaq Mohammed said: “Last week in this council chamber, we had a petition presented for the Rose Garden Cafe. How many more Rose Gardens are there within that £48m?”
Cllr Maroof Raouf asked if there was a risk of redundancies around the Moorfoot move and was told that cleaners and receptionists could be moved elsewhere.
Cllr Joe Otten said: “Thinking about the Rose Garden Cafe again, obviously it was a great community asset, it was paying rent, it was a false economy not to do that maintenance back in the day.
“How much more false economy is there in the system in terms of essential maintenance not being done?”
He said “maybe the Central Library is the next Rose Garden Cafe but bigger in every way”.
Committee co-chair Cllr Bryan Lodge said: “The crucial thing is we’ve got the right facilities out in the community and this will help us to deliver that.”