A £4MILLION revamp of Southend’s Civic Centre to improve its public areas will start next month.
The changes to the council offices, in Victoria Avenue, are designed to make it easier for residents to talk to officials and get help.
They include a new refreshment and meeting area, capable of seating 50 people, a bigger customer service area, with twice as many self-service terminals, and an extra marriage room.
The work is the latest stage of a £35million revamp to bring the 50-year-old building up to date, and should be finished by September.
The council has spent £15million on parts of the Civic Centre tower used by its back office staff.
Council leader Nigel Holdcroft said: “So far, we have concentrated on the back office areas.
“As well as making the offices more cost-effective to run, the work has also enabled us to accommodate far more of our staff in the Civic Centre, resulting in significant savings.
“We are now turning to the customer and public parts of the building, which will help us improve arrangements for residents who visit in person with queries, and also improve the wedding and other areas which are used by the public.”
A new “pavilion” area, offering wireless internet access, a refreshment stall and seats for 50 people will be built in an unused quadrangle between the customer service area and the register office.
The council’s main customer service centre will face the pavilion, and it be given a bigger children’s play area, which can be seen from the centre’s selfservice terminals.
The terminals will also be improved to make them more private and easier for disabled people to use. The council also plans to open a new area where meetings can be held with vulnerable families. this will replace one at the now-demolished Queensway House, in Essex Street.
Most of the publicly-accessible areas between the ground and second floors, including committee rooms, toilets and the spiral staircase will be redecorated.
The long-term refurbishment will continue, with changes still to come to the councillors’ wing, and the car park.
Margaret Thatcher House, behind the main office building, is due to be demolished.
The council did consider demolishing and replacing the Sixties office complex, at a cost of £50million, or moving to a fresh site.
However councillors decided to stay put, partly to save money, and partly as a show of confidence in Victoria Avenue, where several office blocks are now standing empty.