A scheme to cut costs and reduce carbon emissions by modernising Birmingham City Council offices has won praise from the Government and a sustainability think tank.
The Working for the Future scheme, which aims to save £100 million in running costs by replacing 55 outdated buildings with eight purpose-built modern offices, has been identified as an example for other local authorities to follow.
The project is highlighted in an inquiry by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum, a cross-party coalition of UK businesses, Government agencies, MPs and peers.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said Birmingham had shown it was possible to make substantial savings without cutting services.
Mr Pickles said: “This timely report shows that every council could save millions by managing their properties better, using the money to protect frontline services or keep council tax down.”
The purpose of the inquiry was to investigate how the public sector could improve the sustainability of its property portfolio.
Councils across the country could reduce their office space requirements by almost one-third and save £7 billion a year in running costs, the inquiry found.
Birmingham cabinet finance member Randal Brew said the city’s property strategy showed the council was “ahead of the game”.
He pointed out that last year’s refurbishment of the city centre Lancaster Circus offices will cut 10,000 sq m of floor space, generate savings of £3.5 million a year in running costs and reduce carbon emissions by 40 per cent.
Coun Brew (Con Northfield) added: “We are already seeing the rewards for rationalising our property and we are on track to save £100 million over the next 25 years.
“We knew change was required and didn’t waste time in addressing the issues. We saw this challenge of transforming our property as a great opportunity for Birmingham.
“Not only could we bring our office portfolio into the 21st century, we could also use it as a catalyst for culture change to bring in new working practices and improve the services we provide.
“Through a combination of these new buildings and work practices, and managing buildings more effectively, we’re already reaping the rewards and surpassing our expectations.
“Even those who were sceptical of our ambitious plans are being impressed by the results.”