IS THE new council HQ building big enough?
That’s the question being asked by Labour group leader Derek Bateman who has concerns about a new workplace strategy at the Tory-controlled Cheshire West and Chester Council.
The strategy reveals space per employee will reduce by a third from 12sq m per person to just eight after workers move into HQ over the next few weeks.
It foresees ‘hot-desking’ and home-working for some staff and even encourages the use of cafes and restaurants.
Labour leader Derek Bateman, who loses his own office in the move to open plan working, says the language is ‘arty-farty’ but the reality is HQ simply ‘isn’t big enough’.
“It’s going to be a tight squeeze to get 700 people into half that building,” said Cllr Bateman, who has now secured his own desk having been previously told he must plug a mobile pod into wherever was available.
“The document is peppered with US terms such as the proposed ‘touch-down space’ at reception.”
A staff handbook says employees not permanently based at HQ will book ‘a motel desk’ if they need a workstation for a couple of hours or a ‘hotel desk’ for longer periods.
Home-working is suggested ‘when it is the right choice’, but Cllr Bateman says it is human nature that some unsupervised workers will ‘prune their roses’ instead.
Public and semi-public places ‘like the cafe, the local leisure centre, the library or restaurant table’ are described ‘as office accommodation for free, or at most for the price of a cup of coffee’.
But the Ellesmere Port councillor says conducting confidential council business in Wi Fi cafes is ‘not secure’.
However, most of the Labour leader’s ire is aimed at the open plan design which he says won’t work and isn’t working at County Hall, where doors are wedged open at the behest of chief executive Steve Robinson.
“All the directors are on the floor above me and I can hear people talking in the corridor.”
Council spokesman Ian Callister said: “The workplace strategy agreed is designed to make the best use of technology, space and innovative working to create the most efficient unit to the benefit of Cheshire council taxpayers.”