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Surrey County Council Relocation: Will It Move To Guildford Or Woking?

Published on: 10 May, 2019
Updated on: 13 May, 2019

By Hugh Coakley

County Hall in Kingston upon Thames.

Surrey County Council is moving out of its Kingston upon Thames headquarters in 2020 to a “location closer to residents, and within the county borders of Surrey”. The proposal is said will save up to £10 million annually.

Both Guildford and Woking have been shortlisted as the leading options for the establishment of the new ‘civic heart’ in Surrey. A decision on the new location is expected in July 2019.

But there has been no indication which buildings in either town are being considered, whether for SCC occupation or for sharing with other local authority staff.

In a report to Surrey County Council’s cabinet on April 30, the proposal describes using existing offices and a new small civic building to relocate the 1,500 staff who currently work in County Hall. It is thought that, by making better use of technology, creating a virtual working environment and hot-desking at a ratio of three people to one desk, the new HQ may only require about 100 desks.

The Guildford Borough Council chamber in Millmead is currently set out for its own 48 councillors and other attendees. With the significant size of the public gallery, there are options to accommodate larger Surrey County Council meetings with its 81 councillors.

The move will mean that the local authority, with an annual spend of £1.7 billion, will move out of the magnificent municipal offices in Kingston upon Thames, which is not fully occupied now, to a less grand venue, reflecting the financial constraints on local authorities.

Formal council meetings, for the 81 Surrey councillors, could be held in either the Guildford Borough Council chamber, which houses its own 48 councillors, or the Woking Borough Council chamber, with its 30 councillors. An alternative of using a conference centre, hired as required, is also a consideration.

Surrey County Council’s own information newspaper, Surrey Matters, reports: “An agent is being recruited to market the building [County Hall] and alternative locations for staff are being looked at, including relocating to other SCC owned buildings.”

Cllr Mark Brett-Warburton.

Cllr Mark Brett-Warburton, Conservative Surrey County Councillor for Guildford South East, said that there was: “a very compelling argument that Surrey County Council services should now be located in the heart of Surrey itself, which in my view is Guildford, not only as the county town, but it is well located strategically for accessibility from all corners of the county.”

Cllr Fiona White, Liberal Democrat Surrey County Councillor for Guildford West and the newly elected Guildford Borough Councillor for Westborough, said: “The old building is beautiful but no longer fit for purpose and is costing far too much money to maintain and run.

Cllr Fiona White.

“From a personal point of view, I would like to see the council move to Guildford, which is the county town of Surrey. However, the main thing is to make the move as efficiently and with as little cost as possible. I would prefer Surrey to relocate to an existing building rather than look at a new build.”

John Rigg, newly elected Residents for Guildford and Villages Guildford Borough Councillor for Holy Trinity, said: “We would of course like to think Surrey County Council can be accommodated in Guildford, the county town. What a great fillip it could be for our local economy.

Cllr John Rigg.

“We will be pleased to engage promptly with the county and work with the borough council officers to bring ourselves up to speed and put our best foot forward. We will, in any case, need to work with the county on so many other issues and we hope we can begin positively on such an important decision for SCC and Guildford.”

Cllr Paul Spooner.

Cllr Paul Spooner, former leader of Guildford Borough Council and Conservative councillor for Ash South & Tongham, said: “My administration did a huge amount of work in bringing Surrey CC HQ to Guildford, but it is now for a different administration to complete the process. I trust they will deliver.”

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test 9 Responses to Surrey County Council Relocation: Will It Move To Guildford Or Woking?

  1. John Lomas Reply

    May 11, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Did Cllr Spooner make his statement before or after the one saying the Conservative Group would no longer communicate with The Dragon?

    Editor’s note: The comment was made before.

  2. David Wragg Reply

    May 11, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    About time! It is ridiculous that SCC is based outside the current county boundary when it should be based in the heart of its own area. The trouble is that Guildford is already overcrowded. If staff wish to relocate, that will add to the pressure on housing.

  3. Russell Morris Reply

    May 11, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    Kingston does at least offer good public transport access from much of both the east and the west of the county. Since so much of the public transport network is radial to London, Guildford and Woking are not so easily reached from the east of he county.

    • Keith Reeves Reply

      May 14, 2019 at 1:56 pm

      Anyone would think we’re talking about crossing the Congo Basin, not a small county in the developed world with pretty good road and rail infrastructure. The rush hour notwithstanding I’d be surprised if there’s anywhere in Surrey more than an hour’s drive from Millmead say. I don’t think that could be said of Kingston.

      The North Downs line and the Redhill-Tonbridge lines provide good access to Guildford and then on to Woking from the east of Surrey. Getting to Kingston is not such a straightforward journey.

    • Ben Darnton Reply

      May 15, 2019 at 11:01 pm

      I’ve heard that the large offices in Newcastle Zealand Avenue in Walton on Thames were being considered

  4. Martin Elliott Reply

    May 11, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    If they come to Millmead, will they use the modern technology of the vote telling system in the council chamber?

    I’m surprised nobody (eg Fiona White?) doesn’t float the unfortunately vague idea of a Unitary Authority. Surely a massive saving in costs and at least we’d know which council was responsible for services?

    • George Potter Reply

      May 16, 2019 at 9:22 am

      The goal of moving to a unitary authority was actually in the Liberal Democrat local manifesto this year.

      George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham.

  5. Harry Elson Reply

    May 12, 2019 at 6:39 am

    All very interesting, but where do you find the land to build the new headquarters? What about the urgent need for housing in Guildford? I know, what about the green belt? It has already been plundered in Keens Lane, Worplesdon, so there are lots of fields to be built on.

    What about the soon to be vacant Debenhams’ site ?

  6. Sue Reeve Reply

    May 17, 2019 at 7:05 am

    Debenhams store is about to be available, could this provide office space with public use of the lovely riverside area? Just a short walk from the council chamber too.

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