West Berkshire Council looking to close West Street offices
WEST Berkshire Council is looking to downsize its Newbury office space as staff switch to a new working regime following the coronavirus pandemic.
The council is proposing to shut its offices at West Street House and West Point House and move all staff into its Market Street offices.
The move would result in around 350 staff, primarily in education and social services roles, joining around 500 based at Market Street.
Staff will also switch to a hybrid working model of two days at home and three days in the office, if they choose.
The council's chief executive, Nick Carter, said the move would save the council around £400,000 a year in revenue costs, as well as capital savings, which would be reinvested back into staff to support them working from home, as well as holding on to some of the savings to support its financial strategy.
Mr Carter said there had been positives of the pandemic in striking a better work life balance and that staff wanted to continue to work the way they had done over the past 18 months.
Staff have been consulted on the proposals, which will go before the council's executive committee next week.
If approved, Mr Carter said the council would start implementing the changes by the end of the year.
Asked what would happen to the offices, Mr Carter, who is stepping down from his role next month, said: "We certainly won't be keeping it fallow because we won't have another use for it to be honest.
"If you asked me to predict what would happen we will probably get another joint venture or sell those assets.
"All of our assets in Newbury are rather dated and not environmentally sound to be honest. We would be faced with putting a lot of money into West Point House in the next three to five years.
"I see no benefit in the council converting these old buildings into flats."
Asked whether the council could relocate to the London Road Industrial Estate, Mr Carter did not commit but said: "The council will need a new office at some point. Market Street is going to be very expensive to maintain.
"There's a political commitment to remain in Newbury and the town centre. We have had many people come and talk to us about what they could offer. It could be anywhere in the town centre, that might take three-five years to happen."
The new working arrangements, known as Timelord2, will also reduce the council's carbon footprint by 6.3 per cent, equating to savings of around 740 tonnes of CO2 a year.
Staff living close to the Market Street office will not get free car parking and the council will promote active travel schemes among staff.
A new multi-story car park is being built as part of the Grainger Market Street redevelopment scheme, which includes 140 spaces for the council.
Mr Carter said the council had a group of staff who qualified for free parking, who would continue to be protected.
He said that the shift wouldn't happen overnight but the policy was being changed to encourage greener travel.