'Snobbery' row after authority turns down offer of Yate offices

May 30 2022
'Snobbery' row after authority turns down offer of Yate offices

A POLITICAL row has broken out after the West of England Combined Authority turned down an offer of relocating to offices in Yate.

The regional organisation, comprising Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset councils and led by Metro Mayor Dan Norris, needs a new base after the landlord of its current headquarters near Temple Meads told it to leave by December.

Weca has now signed a deal to take over a four-storey complex in Redcliffe (pictured below).

But South Gloucestershire Council cabinet member Ben Burton has criticised both the central Bristol location and the cost, which is £200,000 a year more than Weca currently pays.

He said the council offered Weca a whole floor of its main offices in Yate, next to the new park and ride, but was snubbed because of a "snobbish attitude" towards the town.

Conservative Mr Burton claimed the rent hike – from £500,000 to £700,000 a year – could not be justified while local bus services continued to face cuts.

He said: "We had put forward a number of local options, including an offer to relocate Weca to our offices in Yate, providing ample room and easy commuting options that would support sustainable travel as well as helping to make working relationships stronger and more effective.

It is very frustrating that both our suggestions and those of the other authorities have been dismissed so readily over such a poorly thought through alternative.

There seems to be a snobbish attitude towards Yate from a sneering metropolitan-based elite.”

In response, Labour mayor Mr Norris said: “Where staff are based is a matter for civil service bosses, who are duty bound to take into account value for money, that over 90 per cent of the staff concerned currently live in Bristol, the commuting patterns across the West of England, and that most existing staff use public transport or walk and cycle to work.”

The decision to make the move has been taken by officers using delegated authority, after a committee meeting of leaders could not go ahead because not enough members attended.

It is understood South Gloucestershire’s chief executive voted against, his B&NES counterpart abstained but Bristol and Weca’s top officers voted in favour.

A report said the Redcliffe premises were the cheapest on a shortlist of three buildings, although Yate’s Badminton Road offices were not fully appraised financially, having been deemed “not viable”.

It said a Bristol location was "essential", adding: Moving to an area outside of central Bristol would be detrimental to our ability to recruit and retain key staff, as well as increasing the authority’s carbon footprint through staff commuting to work.”

“Asking them to commute to Yate could be difficult. It is our view that we would lose existing staff and struggle to recruit future staff.”

Weca intends to sublet some of the new space, saving £168,000 a year.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service.