PROGRESS is well underway as Flintshire Council prepares to relocate almost 500 staff members from its Mold HQ.

The authority’s cabinet approved the business case to move a range of services from County Hall to the old Unilever office site in Ewloe back in March.

Since then work has been ongoing to arrange the refurbishment of the offices at Unity House, and discussions have been held with staff and unions to prepare for the relocation.

It comes as the council plans to move forward with the demolition of phases three and four of its campus on Raikes Lane in a bid to cut costs.

Annual operating costs for the Mold building currently stand at £1.2m with estimated maintenance costs for the next 25 years predicted to be £26m.

In a report which went before councillors today (Monday 25 June), it was also revealed that the cost of keeping Unity House vacant currently stands at approximately £700,000 a year.

Ian Bancroft, Chief Officer for Strategic Programmes, said: “The intention is that Unity House will be one of our main office bases and will be designed for front line services, who are not receiving walk in enquiries from members of the public, but who need to meet members of the public and partners by appointment.

“The building is in in good condition, is light and spacious, and has a good number of meeting rooms.

“Therefore the intention is not to make significant alterations to the design of the building.”

He added that the council had received money from Unilever when its lease on the building expired in July 2016, which will be used to renovate the building.

The consumer goods giant closed its information technology centre based in Ewloe in 2014, resulting in the loss of 100 jobs.

The building was previously put on the market by the council for a sum approaching £5m but failed to sell.

Since it became empty, travellers have set up camp at the site on a number of occasions, and it has also been targeted by vandals.

Speaking at the meeting, Flintshire Council Chief Executive Colin Everett said it was important to invest in a modern base for staff.

He said: “County Hall is a poor quality, dated environment and would cost a large amount to keep up to date, which wouldn’t represent good value for money to the public.

“There is no intention to replicate the civic base in Ewloe, but we need a long term plan where there is a replaced or refurbished County Hall.

“We are in private conversations with other public services to create a shared public services hub which could be used by everyone.”

He added that any proposals for Phases 1 and 2 were likely to come before members within the next two to four years.

The services earmarked to move to Unity House are social services, planning and environment, education and contact centre staff.

All building and refurbishment works are expected to be completed by September, with staff expected to move in between October and December.

The majority of councillors voted in favour of supporting the progress of the planned move.