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Topic: Independent Record Centres & Office Centralisations - LRERC

The Leicestershire & Rutland Environmental Records Centre (LRERC) is an operational unit of Leicestershire County Council based at a sub-office away from County Hall at Holly Hayes in Birstall. LRERC works typically as many other record centres in their own grounds with recorders and visitors being able to visit freely. Recorders can also access paper records instantly at our offices.

The County Council is considering whether to close Holly Hayes some time next year. The closure would save money.  The late Edith Murphy and the  Edith Murphy Foundation have very generously leased Holly Hayes to the County Council free of charge for 16 years, but the Council has to cover the running costs and maintenance of the building and grounds.  In a building of this age, these costs are high. If Holly Hayes closed, all the staff currently working in the Environmental Records Centre would move to County Hall.  This would bring some advantages; for example it would be helpful to have all the staff in the Historic and Natural Environment Team under one roof.  It would also make it easier for us to liaise with colleagues in other parts of the County Council, such as Countryside, Highways and Property Services.  Despite this, all the staff based at Holly Hayes would be very sad to leave Holly Hayes, which is a lovely place to work and is an ideal location for the Environmental Records Centre.   In particular we feel that it has helped us to stay in touch with the many voluntary groups, naturalists, heritage wardens etc. who have visited us, supported our work, and used the meeting room and facilities. If we do move to County Hall, we want to do all we can to maintain this informal contact, which we believe is of mutual benefit to both parties.   We realise that closing Holly Hayes will have repercussions for the work that we do. Are their any other record centres that are subject to this type of centralisation and what impact will this have on the way in which local record centres operate?

As part of the upcoming cuts, LRERC is looking at being an arm's length unit or independent trust. This obviously has certain implications and we are keen to find anyone who has experience of tackling such an operation or anyone who would simply be able to help. Whether this is something other records centres are thinking about or currently experiencing, it would be interesting to find out.

Re: Independent Record Centres & Office Centralisations - LRERC

Hi Gary, I understand your concerns; at RECORD we value our ability to work closely with our various data providers through use of rooms for meetings and informal discussions. The ability for recorders and volunteers to drop in at short notice, to my mind, is vital for our operation. We need room to support our growing volunteer base (running at about 50) that support the four of us in the office.

We are based within Chester Zoo, we are an independent Charity (since 2002) and a non profit company since 2000. We have been based at one of our LA's many years ago, but we were fortunate enough to be offered a peppercorn rent at the zoo that offered us self contained accommodation so we took this up.

We are now based in Oakfield House (within the main Zoo) which is fantastic, however it brings with it some conditions. I have had a look around at office space and other options, just out of curiosity, and I have to say we are in a really good position.

Regarding independence; it is great to be independent; data providers, to my mind, look upon us more favourably because we aren't tied to any other camp. From what I can see (correct me if I am wrong) we have much more freedom to pursue project funding and we can take on more partnership work.

The down sides are generally lower pay (due to the other cost pressures), little or no pension, health plan etc. All HR, legal and IT support has to be bought in or come from trustees/staff. I guess one of the biggest issues is the lack of job security (I am not sure whether this is better at an LA?), this can put a lot of people off. However it can encourage staff to make the job their own and really get involved to ensure continued support for their role.

Sorry, you probably know all of this, but these are the things that come up more often than not when I think about this subject.

Please feel free to contact me if you feel I can be of any assistance Gary; I would be more than happy to help.

Cheers,

Eric

Eric Fletcher
RECORD Manager
RECORD

Re: Independent Record Centres & Office Centralisations - LRERC

Gary, have you considered as an alternative option approaching the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust? We're a pseudo-department of the Sussex Wildlife Trust and it is a very beneficial partnership for both sides. We have our own identity and policies that are distinct from the Trust, but we also take advantage of the infrastructure they provide in the form of office space, administration and IT. The naturalists of Sussex also (for the most part) like that we're closely associated with a conservation organisation. Feel free to get in touch if you'd like to know more.

ERCISS are another successful Wildlife Trust hosted LRC.

There are pros and cons to each model (independent, LA, WT, museum), but it sounds like options are your greatest friend right now.

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Re: Independent Record Centres & Office Centralisations - LRERC

Thanks very much Eric & Charles for your comments there really useful and thank you for the offer of future help, I'm sure we'll be in touch in the future!

Gareth