To receive a presentation on the plans for office accommodation changes and the challenges being addressed.
Alison Sanders, Director of Corporate Services, attended the Commission to present the plans for office accommodation changes.
The office accommodation changes formed part of stage two of the Accommodation Strategy and would provide the opportunity to deliver the objectives of the Council’s Support Services Review through co-location of all support services. This would also enable the Council to be more efficient and rationalise the accommodation and dispose of sites, as well as reduce the demands on the capital maintenance budget and release the Easthampstead House site for further town centre regeneration.
Essential repairs were required to keep Easthampstead House open beyond the next two years including window replacement and heating pipework replacement. The essential works would cost in the region of £1m and the current running costs per annum were at least £330k.
Work to Time Square had last been undertaken in 2013 this had included significant work to increase occupancy levels as a result of accommodating Seymour House staff, replacing the air-conditioning distribution system, lighting, ceilings and power upgrades and the consolidation of the customer service function. Works to the Atrium were excluded but were now required as the glass was starting to crack. It was thought that the Atrium works could include building a more substantial
structure and assist with extending each floor.
In order to consolidate all staff and services Time Square would need to accommodate 975 staff, there were currently 785 based there. A reduction in storage and more extensive use of flexible and mobile working would be required to increase occupancy levels coupled with better space planning to create better working through co-location of departments, maximising floor grids and standardising layouts. Storage would need to be created for deeds and legal documents that couldn’t be digitalised.
Flexible working would require three desks for every five staff, which would result in staff spending at least 40% of their time away from a desk or at least two days per week working from home. There would be a need for additional personal lockers and a clear desk policy put in place. The Council currently worked on a 5:4 desk ratio. Flexible and mobile working would allow staff to have a better work-home life balance, ensure less commuting time and create a more motivated workforce. There would also be savings in capital and revenue through the reduced office footprint. Staffs laptops were currently being upgraded and there would need to be further investment in technology to support flexible and mobile working.
Issues had arisen with trying to locate a suitable area for the democratic function and meeting rooms were often used throughout the day for training and briefing sessions. A potential location was the Ground Floor South which could be used to create a larger Council Chamber, two large Committee Rooms, a Boardroom, the Mayoral Suite and the Minority Group Room. There would also need to be an area to facilitate the Majority Group Room and the Leader and Executive accommodation which would be in physical proximity to the Chief Executive. Workshops for members would happen at a later date for those who wished to be involved with assisting with the draft plans.
Other potential difficulties
included the lack of physical storage space available in Time
Square, staff car parking, the ICT Network links out of
Easthampstead House ie the Library and
the cost of new furniture throughout Time Square.
The business case stacked up for delivering savings and it was the right time to capitalise as the Easthampstead House site receipt could be substantial and would more than cover the Time Square costs.
In response to Members’ questions the following points were made:
The Chairman thanked Alison for her presentation and looked forward to further updates in the future.