Council moves more staff into Kettering building three years after £4.35m purchase

The office block was bought in 2019 without backbench councillors being able to scrutinise the deal

By Sam Wildman
Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 6:30 am

A number of council teams have moved into a Kettering office block three years after it was bought in a £4.35m deal.

The now-defunct Kettering Borough Council purchased the RCI building on the town’s Venture Park, Haylock House, in January 2019 as part of a commercial investment plan to generate revenue from its tenants.

But the deal to buy the site just off the A14 was so secret that even some councillors were not told, leading to worries about a lack of transparency and chance for scrutiny.

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Haylock House, Kettering

The Northants Telegraph can reveal that North Northamptonshire Council (NNC), who now own the site, recently moved a number of teams to the building from One Angel Square in Northampton.

It’s led to questions over whether the authority is maximising the opportunity to generate revenue there – the original purpose of the purchase – when they already have council offices in four towns.

Cllr Jim Hakewill (Ind, Rothwell and Mawsley), who criticised the original decision to purchase it, said: "I am quite surprised that the council is utilising this building because it was clearly purchased as a revenue-generating building.

"I am guessing they are going in because they cannot market it (the space) out. But it does not seem right that they are putting people into a building just because they happen to own it, rather than as part of a more detailed plan for the use of buildings across the whole of north Northamptonshire.

Haylock House, Kettering

"As an elected member I had no idea that we were relocating people to that building. As far as I can see we still have all the original buildings we were in but we are putting people here.”

NNC say they currently have six tenants and collect £472,000 per annum in rent. Tenants include Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, Affinion Travel and Balfour Beatty.

We asked NNC how many council staff have moved there, whether more will be moving in the future, whether it could become their new HQ and what it meant for the rest of the council offices.

In response a spokesman for NNC said: “Haylock House is home to a number of employers that are important to the local economy.

“North Northamptonshire Council, and Kettering Borough Council before it, has had staff based at the site since it was purchased a few years ago.

“The council is always keen to ensure that it makes the most efficient use of the accommodation available to it.”

Council teams which have recently moved to Haylock House – which was named in honour of ‘Mr RCI’ Ron Haylock – are understood to have included the customer call centre, registration service and some finance teams. The exact number of NNC now staff based there is unclear but could be in three figures.

Some other staff have recently been moved to existing council offices in Wellingborough and Thrapston.

A second floor office suite at Haylock House is currently listed online as available to let for £84,000 per annum.

Council deals to buy commercial properties to boost income are not uncommon, despite some commentators comparing them to gambling public money on the property market.