At their first full meeting, Warwick District Council’s new Cabinet approved the design and budget to relocate the Council’s Customer Service operations to the Royal Pump Rooms in Leamington Spa
The change to the location of the Council’s services will follow the vacation of the current HQ at Riverside House, Milverton Hill later this year. Following the move, office space will be transferred to Saltisford, Warwick, where a lease will be taken with Warwickshire County Council for use of part of the Saltisford 1 building. In person services will stay in Leamington Spa, but at a new location in the Royal Pump Rooms.
Why are we moving?
We have been planning to move out of our current office at Riverside House for some years. Even before the pandemic changed the way that we work, the building has always been too big for our needs and too expensive to operate. Since adopting new ways of working for our staff including remote and agile working, it is no longer financially viable or sensible for us to remain at Riverside House.
We will be vacating Riverside House and our ‘back office’ staff will be moving to Saltisford in Warwick, where a lease will be taken with Warwickshire County Council for use of part of the Saltisford 1 building. This will save the District Council hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.
Though the majority of our services can be done online or over the phone, there will be occasions when people need to speak to us face-to-face. This needs to be in a central, accessible location where our customers can get to us easily. After careful consideration, we have decided to relocate our face-to-face customer service provision to the Pump Rooms in Royal Leamington Spa.
Why have the Pump Rooms been chosen for face-to-face customer services?
A requirement to continue providing face-to-face customer service in a town centre location and a need to reduce overall running costs has prompted us to see how we can make more effective use of the buildings we own, including the Town Hall and Royal Pump Rooms.
Detailed plans for an enhanced customer services operation have been put forward. With no suitable rooms available in the Town Hall, the best solution was found in the Pump Rooms, which offers more accessible spaces and has a visitor information centre and library already established.
A more central location in Leamington Spa on a main bus route is more accessible to the public than the current provision at Riverside House.
Where will the customer services area be located in the Pump Rooms?
It is important that we are able to provide a welcoming space for those in our community, particularly the vulnerable and frail, who are unable to access our services online. Customers can visit us to discuss any Council service whether that be Council Tax, parking, licensing or recycling collections. There is also a requirement to provide discreet meeting areas for those who need confidential support on issues such as housing and finance. These facilities will be located in the area currently used as a shop and gallery space for local artists.
This space is a relatively new addition to the Pump Rooms having been constructed in 1999, so the location chosen does not affect or impact the exterior of the building, or the café, library or museum.
What will now happen to the shop, we were told that it would not be moving?
We realise that this is a difficult and disappointing situation for our successful arts community, who currently display and sell their collections from the Pump Rooms Shop. The Council will continue to support local artists and is actively seeking a viable alternative to this shop.
The Pump Rooms is a historic-listed building recognised for arts and culture, will the new arrangements cause irreversible damage?
Changes to the use of this important listed building require the utmost consideration. However, the area which we will be using is part an extension to the Pump Rooms which was constructed around 1999. Nevertheless, the designs approved by Cabinet will have no lasting impact on the structure of the Pump Rooms and will be sympathetic to the building’s listed status and heritage. If, at a point in the future, Council services could be provided elsewhere, the Pump Rooms would be restored to its current state.
Additional measures, such as a separate entrance, will be put in place to minimise the impact on those visiting the building for other reasons such as the library or museum.
Have you considered other buildings that the Council owns, or renting a new space?
We have looked at various options for the relocation of our customer services, including existing Council buildings such as the Town Hall, or renting existing retail space in Leamington Town Centre. However, the Pump Rooms is the most cost-effective solution whilst also providing a central location that is easily accessible.
The Town Hall would require significant work to bring it up to accessibility and safety standards and does not provide us with adequate space that can be adapted to provide our customers the privacy they need when talking to us.
A town centre shop would incur significantly higher costs including rent, business rates, utilities and refitting the space to suit our customer’s needs.
Has the Council taken on board the views of members of the public who signed the petition against the proposals to relocate its customer services?
The Council has listened to the views of residents who were concerned about the impact of the new service on the ambience of the Pump Rooms so will install an elegant new barrier/screen to replace the old roller fence and 'pods' to minimise the sound in the foyer. We will ensure that branding and signage are functional but discreet to help the space retain its special character.
Currently, the Pump Rooms will provide the most cost-effective and accessible solution for Council customers who need to speak to us face-to-face the most and will be a big improvement on what is available at Riverside House.
The Council is sensitive to the feelings of members of the public who regularly visit and exhibit at the Pump Rooms shop but are confident that working collectively with the creative community a suitable alternative location will be found.
How does Warwick District Council support the local arts community?
The Council has a fully funded and busy Arts Section which manages the Royal Spa Centre, the Assembly Rooms and Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum (both inside the historic Pump Rooms), and Leamington Town Hall.
The team also supports individual artists, creative businesses, amateur and professional arts groups and organisations through funding, grants and development support.
Strategic arts initiatives including Warwick District's Creative Framework, plus the annual Spark and Ignite events form part of the team's role as a leading facilitator of growth and support for the creative sector with support to local arts events including the annual Art in the Park.