Agenda item

Future Ways of Working and Making the Best Use of Corporate Assets


The Leader of the Council presented a report which provided Full Council with a summary of issues relating to office accommodation and the opportunities for new ways of working to better meet the needs of the Council.


The Leader reported that the Council over the last few years had seen a major change in the style of working in its office bases, with several change programmes to drive performance, improvements and savings being in place. A reduction in the amount of office space by introducing mobile technology and more flexible ways of working reflected an organisation-wide change programme, with work settings having been updated and new technology deployed as a result to support a more flexible way of working.


The main Council Offices at St Peter’s Hill in Grantham was an aging asset with inadequate facilities that now required significant investment in order to provide modern, good quality, adaptable and flexible workspaces. An asset review had identified other locations in the vicinity of St Peter’s Hill that were currently underutilised, which provided the Council with a unique opportunity to rationalise the Council’s operations against the backdrop of continued financial challenges and to reflect the significant change in working practices accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Leader highlighted that a change to a mix of home and office-based working meant that the Council could continue to be an employer of choice in a competitive employment market, offering attractive work/life balance and decent office accommodation which was increasingly more important.


An overview of the options available to the Council were set out in the body of the report.


The Leader proposed the recommendation contained within the report and the proposition was seconded.


The following points were made during debate of the motion:


·         Changing circumstances over the last two years had enabled the Council to reassess its office accommodation

·         The proposal would deliver health and wellbeing benefits to the Council’s staff, which should have a positive impact on services delivered to residents

·         The annual saving in running costs in respect of the Council Offices at St Peter’s Hill was significant

·         The proposed re-development plans for the site would require additional car parking spaces which could not be facilitated on the footprint of the existing site

·         Grantham did not have a community centre, even with a population of approximately 20,000 people. A decision such as this should be deferred until the proposal for a Town Council for Grantham had been determined which, if established, it should action

·         A question was raised as to whether this initiative would improve efficiency and communication

·         It was suggested that the cultural shift imposed on staff in terms of working from home was a culture that bred laziness and that difficulties had been experienced in contacting Officers via the telephone or making appointments to meet with them

·         Hotdesking may make it difficult for Officers and Members to know where certain Officers were located on a day-to-day basis and there were challenges with working in open plan office accommodation to contend with, such as noise and other distractions

·         A question was raised as to whether any consultation had taken place with staff. It was confirmed that informal consultation had been held and Trade Unions had indicated their support of the proposals. The Council also had in place a People Panel, made up of staff from across all service areas of the Council who had been engaged as part of the development of the proposals

·         The Council’s telephone system was not fit for purpose and needed addressing. It was noted that this was in the process of being resolved with the imminent introduction of a new system

·         The existing office accommodation was in a disgraceful state of repair and the Council’s staff should not be expected to work in such conditions. It would cost the Council £3.2 million to improve the building so that it was in a fit state, which it could not afford, and the building was not even worth. In the current climate it was necessary to look at ways of saving money and rationalising

·         The Council did remarkably well to deliver remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to maintain service delivery and modern technology would now allow for a flexible home and office-based working model going forward

·         The accommodation above the cinema complex had remained empty since the building had been completed so it made sense to take this opportunity for the Council to move into the unit

·         Millions of people now worked from home as part of the culture shift and in response to an earlier comment regarding laziness, it was clear that Officers at South Kesteven District Council were working very hard for the organisation

·         The original plan for the cinema complex included provision for retail outlets, office accommodation for use by organisations such as the University and Local Enterprise Partnership and space for restaurants, together with a £1.66 million spend on a public realm development, all in an attempt to attract younger people into the town. This had not worked, with the only aspect being delivered being the cinema and empty retail units

·         There was a reduced need for office accommodation, so the proposal raised questions as to who would be interested in purchasing the Council’s Offices at St Peter’s Hill and whether it would perhaps become residential or leisure accommodation

·         The Council had an opportunity to move into new, modern accommodation which it should take advantage of

·         In terms of employee welfare, the Chairman of the Employment Committee gave an assurance that this was discussed and considered at length.


The Leader of the Council, in concluding the debate, made the following points:


·         Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic 50% of the building was already inefficient and un-used

·         Proposals for the new accommodation included a public sector hub, with opportunities to work in partnership with the County Council, library service and voluntary sector 

·         Grantham had some wonderful community spaces such as the Jubilee Life Church, the Guildhall and Grantham Museum, albeit not all owned by the public sector

·         The world did not work in a traditional presentism way anymore, with lots of Councils and other organisations in the same circumstances

·         Consultation had been undertaken with Trade Unions who were supportive of the proposals

·         In response to comments about laziness, all staff had been working their hardest throughout the Covid-19 pandemic when they were required to work from home. It was important to be careful in the use of such language

·         Significant investment would be put into Grantham through various Government grant funding initiatives, with the UK Shared Prosperity Fund being the latest which would deliver economic development and growth

·         There was already interest in acquiring the site at St Peter’s Hill 


Having been proposed and seconded, upon being put to the vote the proposition was AGREED.




That a budget allocation of up to £500,000 to be funded from the Invest to Save Reserve in order to relocate the administrative offices to the first floor office space above the Cinema Complex at St Catherine’s Road, Grantham, be approved.


The meeting temporarily adjourned at this stage of proceedings.

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