FULL details can today be revealed over the shock sale of Worcester City Council's flagship HQ - in a deal worth a whopping £3.1 million.
The council's Conservative leadership is about to give the green light to flogging its Orchard House complex to the University of Worcester.
Your Worcester News has obtained full details of the agreement struck, which for taxpayers reveals:
- The university will buy Orchard House, and two other adjoining council buildings Wyatt House and Graveney House for £2.9 million
- As part of the deal the Moors car park will be handed over on a 20-year lease, with the university paying a £260,000 upfront premium and a peppercorn fee of £1 per year
- Because the deal has happened so quickly, the council needs time to shift all its workers into a new location so will pay the university rent to stay in Orchard House until next March at a rate of £101,500 per annum
- All the affected council staff will then be moved to the City Art Gallery & Museum, with the time between now and then used to spend an estimated £300,000 refurbishing the building to get it ready
News of the possible sale of the HQ, in Farrier Street, was first revealed by your Worcester News at the start of July.
Both parties have since shook hands on the deal, which is subject to being accepted by the Conservative cabinet this Tuesday.
Although Orchard House was never officially for sale a report on it says the deal was examined by experts Halls Commercial, which says the offer is "market value".
The cash windfall will be a massive boost to the council's finances at a time when it is under major pressure to slash around £4.1 million by 2019.
The Moors car park will be used by the university during the week and remain a city council-managed 100 space pay-and-display at weekends.
The report also says after looking at all options, it was decided that the ground floor of the museum, which has been empty since 2012 after The Hive opened, is the best option for staff.
The museum has been for sale the last two years, but during that time the only serious piece of interest was from a private developer looking to turn it into student flats.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, city council leader, said: "It's a good deal for the city and one I am happy is in the council's best interests."
Councillor Richard Boorn, Labour's finance spokesman, said: "If I was in the cabinet I'd be going ahead with this - we have too much property and it's a reasonable deal."
Professor David Green, vice-chancellor at the University of Worcester, said he would transform it into a "high quality" learning facility.
Under the deal for the Moors car park, as well as the public still being able to use it on weekends, the council will also be allowed to open it publicly and keep the revenue during the annual Victorian Christmas Fayre.
West Mercia Police will retain the use of 12 spaces seven days a week.
* More on this story will follow in tomorrow's Worcester News.