Essex axes Brussels office
AN OFFICE set up to promote Essex within Europe is being shut down as part of £1 million of county council cuts.The Essex Brussels office is to close by April this year at a cost of £100,000 in rent payments, compensation for breaking the lease and legal costs.
By Juliette Maxam
AN OFFICE set up to promote Essex within Europe is being shut down as part of £1 million of county council cuts.
The Essex Brussels office is to close by April this year at a cost of £100,000 in rent payments, compensation for breaking the lease and legal costs.
After the initial costs it is hoped the ongoing savings from axing the office will be £137,000 a year, which will contribute towards £1 million the county is hoping to shave off its enterprise and regeneration budget.
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The office was set up in 1999 and was aimed at increasing the county's representation at the centre of Europe.
Last year the council's cabinet member for environment, heritage and culture, Kay Twitchen, was asked by the general scrutiny committee to justify the continued existence of the Brussels office, given that the council also contributes financially to the operation of the regional Brussels office in the same building.
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Research was carried out to find non-county council sources of paying for the Essex Brussels office, but no acceptable solution was found to guarantee sufficient funding, so Mrs Twitchen decided to close it down.
Services provided by the office will be reorganised including increasing reliance on the EU policy and funding advice services of the regional Brussels office.
The office itself was taken out on a nine-year lease. The council is able to break the lease in July, but it would be liable to pay rent until then.
Nicholas Cook, chairman of the Institute of Directors Essex branch, said: “I don't think the closure will reduce our attempts to do large scale business in Europe.
“We are a gateway to Europe. Businessmen that want to trade with Europe will do that. I don't suspect Essex County Council is a route they would have chosen anyway.”
He added: “I'm not sure it was much more that a far fetched dream – it was almost a bit of a frolic.”