MOVING hundreds of council jobs out of St Austell will have a devastating impact on the town and threaten the social and economic fabric of mid-Cornwall, business leaders have warned.
The St Austell Bay Economic Forum is calling on Cornwall Council to preserve as many council jobs in the town centre as possible amid fears that hundreds of council employees will be transferred to a new £10 million office in Bodmin.
"Losing such a significant element of the council's operations from St Austell would be highly damaging in terms of the employment and economic impact but would also serve to undermine what is Cornwall's biggest town by removing the bulk of local authority activity from it," said James Staughton, forum chairman and managing director of St Austell Brewery.
Mr Staughton said businesses in the town were calling upon the council to explore all options before taking any jobs away from the town.
"The forum understands the budgetary pressures being faced by the council and the need for action to address this," he said.
"We also acknowledge and welcome moves towards a one stop shop and library being located in the town centre. However, we are calling on the council to do more to preserve a significant administrative presence, and the jobs that go with this, in St Austell. The forum and its members are committed to working with the council to explore all options for maintaining as many services as possible and at least one of its key sites in the town."
Public sector workers are currently based at the Sedgemoor Centre and Penwinnick Road sites – the latter of which was subject to a supermarket development bid.
St Austell mayor and economic forum member, Steve Double, said he would do all he could to fight the proposed job transfers: "St Austell is the largest town in Cornwall and it is unthinkable that we will not continue to be a significant centre for Cornwall Council staff and services," Mr Double said.
"Additionally, this area has been highlighted as an area for economic regeneration within the council's corporate priorities. Therefore it makes no sense at all for council jobs to be moved out of the town. I will be doing all I can to work to keep as many jobs here as possible."
Stephen Gilbert, MP for St Austell and Newquay, has also raised his concerns over the proposals. "There is a great deal of concern and uncertainty in the town as a result of the council being unable to reassure local people about the future of services and staff based here," Mr Gilbert said.
"I am urging the council to accept as part of any review the importance of maintaining a significant base in St Austell and then set about working with the local community and businesses to establish ways of making that happen."
In April, Cornwall Council approved plans to build a £10 million office block at the Beacon Technology Park in Bodmin, which is expected to house up to 675 council employees from across east Cornwall.
A Cornwall Council spokesperson said: "As part of the budget process, the council is having to look at a range of scenarios involving a number of towns in mid and east Cornwall to make best use of its buildings and ensure value for money for council tax payers.
"No decisions have yet been made.
"Discussions will be held with members, services and staff as we develop any options."