Agenda item

Office Accommodation

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:


  • Many of the teams within Time Square were already working on a 5:3 desk ratio however the use of the grid floor plates would need to be maximised to enable the move.
  • There was already a clear Flexible Working policy in place and staff already had this applied to their roles. There were three different work styles; Fixed, this was primarily a desk bound role that required the user to be in the same physical space for most of their working hours. HomeFlex, this was also a primarily deskbound role but with the correct IT equipment, it could equally be done for part of the week from home. Free, staff whose role involved working in the field, attending meetings or working in other locations andcould also work at home for part of the week given the correct IT equipment.
  • All staff’s work style had been categorised for the past five years. There were approximately 30% fixed workers and 60% flexible workers.
  • To purchase a new building  the Council would have to sell both Easthampstead House and Time Square. In 2012 a new build option had been investigated but it was thought that this would bring further costs and add complications.
  • The Council was currently at its highest point of staffing levels, there would certainly be fewer staff in the future.
  • The expected cost for the changes and move to Time Square was approximately £3.5million.
  • It would not be easy to add an annex onto Time Square as the underground car park posed complications. Likewise it would be hard to add an extra floor onto the building due to the material on the roof that would need to be removed. Parts of the underground car park were being looked at as a possible storage solution.
  • If all staff were unable to fit into Time Square a short term option would be to rent office space nearby.
  • Bracknell Town Centre Regeneration Committee were currently working on a work stream for options regarding the regeneration for  the whole Easthampstead House site which also included the library, Magistrates Court and possibly the Police Station. The site would be a large, prime development site.
  • Expressions of interest for the site had not been invited yet, however there had been forty five expressions of interest for the site at Garth Hill. The site had been professionally valued and would be desirable for mixed use due to the Town Centre Regeneration.
  • The Council had a good working relationship with the Police and talks were ongoing regarding the Police Station.
  • There would be detailed costings brought to members in due course, the presentation given to the Commission was to make Members aware of the work that was currently being undertaken.
  • Easthampstead Park Conference Centre would not be considered as an option for office space. There was currently a separate work stream ongoing which would look in great detail at the options for Easthampstead Park Conference Centre for the future.
  • There would be enough car parking spaces in the High Street Car Park for all staff members that were currently enrolled in the Staff Parking Scheme.
  • The total number of staff was nine hundred and twenty five as of 1 June 2016.
  • It was thought that there were no policy reasons to why a multi story car park couldn’t be built by the train station.


The Chairman thanked Alison for her presentation and looked forward to further updates in the future.