COUNCIL offices could close under a major buildings review at the region’s newest local authority.

Durham County Council’s executive cabinet is being asked to “rationalise” its offices portfolio, to allow public access to services while providing value for money.

The council also hopes to cut its carbon footprint and make better use of modern technology.

Durham’s County Hall would be likely to remain the council headquarters with “main centres”, with up to 500 staff, in former district council offices in Chester-le-Street, Durham, Crook and Spennymoor and a yet to be decided location in east Durham.

“Supporting centres” with up to 100 staff could be set up in: Consett, Stanley, Easington, Barnard Castle, Bishop Auckland, Newton Aycliffe, Seaham or Stanhope.

These would improve the services available in remote areas, a report for next week’s cabinet meeting says.

But it adds: “Much of our office stock needs significant investment to make it efficient office accommodation, but this required spend may not prove the most cost effective solution when weighing up the longer term repairs and maintenance liabilities.

“The project will explore the potential for disposal of surplus sites and alternative office accommodation proposals.”

The former Easington District Council offices do not provide value for money or a suitable environment, the report says, and there are plans to demolish Consett Civic Centre.

The new unitary Durham County Council, which was created on April 1, inherited a large number of offices from its predecessors.

Councillors and residents have complained of an exodus of staff to County Hall.

Ian Thompson, the council’s director of regeneration and economic development, said: “The new council has inherited a mix of accommodation, some of which is better equipped than others to serve modern purposes.

“We hope this report will set a clear pathway for a thorough look at what will best match public expectations and staff needs.

“We want to make best use of the huge range of property the new unitary now has to support regeneration in many key areas.”

A full council meeting yesterday approved a motion by Conservative Councillor Richard Bell that council offices be reviewed and an action plan drawn up. The reorganisation programme could take up to two years.