Friday, 22 January 2021

Council to rethink plan for new HQ

Council to rethink plan for new HQ

PLANS to build a new £18 million headquarters for South Oxfordshire District Council are to be scaled back.

The council was planning to return to the site of its old headquarters in Crowmarsh Gifford.

But following the coronavirus pandemic, it is looking at sharing offices elsewhere.

Councillor Jo Robb, who is part of the Lib-Dem/Green coalition which controls the council, said the scheme was being “reappraised”.

She told a meeting of Bix and Assendon Parish Council that the council was currently being run by people working from home.

“The idea of investing more than £10 million in new offices is mad at this time so we won’t be doing that,” said Cllr Robb, who represents Woodcote and Rotherfield for the Green Party.

“It has become absolutely clear that there is simply not going to be the need for a large office with 400 staff. The pandemic has changed working practices, probably permanently.

“We’re looking at a joint office, possibly in Didcot. We’re looking at and examining options at the moment. Nothing’s been decided yet.”

In June, the council said its cabinet had agreed the initial design concepts to allow the contractors to work them up into detailed designs but that the work had been on hold since the start of the pandemic.

At the time, the Conservatives on the district council called for a rethink on a return to Crowmarsh Gifford.

They argued that spending about £18million on a new building was unnecessary and want a smaller, cheaper version.

The original building was destroyed by an arson attack in 2015 and the council now shares a temporary office with Vale of White Horse District Council at Milton Park, near Didcot.

The new building, which would have been completed by the spring of 2022, could have accommodated 435 staff and would have been environmentally friendly with solar panels on the roof of the council chamber.

But the Conservatives, who lost control of the council last year, said the plans were out of date because most officers were working successfully from home and the flexible arrangements should continue in order to reduce traffic on the roads.

Data released by the council showed that air pollution fell by 60 per cent in parts of the district during the lockdown period.

At the time, Caroline Newton, Conservative spokeswoman for environment and housing, said: “We believe one of the lasting impacts of the covid lockdown will be organisations finding new ways to work and do business.

“The last couple of months have shown that the work of the council can continue to be delivered with the majority of staff working remotely from home.”

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