South Kesteven District Council agrees to move offices to top floor of Grantham Savoy Cinema
South Kesteven district councillors agreed a move to the top floor of Grantham’s Savoy Cinema in a bid to save £300,000 a year.
A meeting of the authority’s full council yesterday afternoon (Thursday) voted to approve a budget of £500,000 for the move which leaders hope will create flexible office space and a public sector hub.
Council leader Kelham Cooke (Con, Casewick) told members: “This move will allow us to make best use of a vacant and effectively council-owned assets, eliminate significant annual costs which are being incurred at the present office location, and provide our staff with that modern open plan flexible office space which should really harness that co working space.”
“I hope that all members will positively endorse this move to save us council taxpayers money, but also to provide our staff with the appropriate office space and to allow us to work much more flexibly,” he said.
Councillors in the main agreed their current office was in need of some work with Coun Mark Whittington (Con - Grantham Barrowby Gate) calling it an “absolute disgrace” while Coun Paul Wood (Ind - Viking) said that even 20 years ago it was “in quite a bad state”.
Coun Ian Selby (Unaligned - Grantham Harrowby), however, was not a fan of the “cultural shift” towards hybrid working or staff working from home.
“For me, working from home is a culture that breeds laziness,” he said.
He said he had spoken to one person who thought productivity would go down as people “spent an awful lot of time” getting cups of coffee and food before “slowly walking back to your laptop and forgetting what you’re doing”.
He, along with some others, questioned whether the move would make the council less open and accessible.
Coun Lee Steptoe (Lab - Grantham Earlesfield) disagreed with Coun Selby, himself having had to teach teenagers for several hours a day from home.
“I was doing my job and I know that there are people in this council, and up and down the country, that won’t be eating cheese or drinking wine, they will have been working very, very hard.
“This idea that people working from home are ‘lazy’ is a ‘lazy’ assumption from a ‘lazy’ man – originally the Prime Minister,” he said.
Coun Steptoe said the move was “inevitable” but warned the council faced “ridicule” and warned the PR around the move needed to be good.
“I hear open rudeness about a council moving upstairs into a cinema,” he said.
“Ordinary people across this town can’t believe it, some are disgusted, more of them see it as an as an absolute joke. So make sure that your PR is good.”
Councillors also questioned if the space could be better used for community work, or general revitalisation of the town.
Coun Cooke said: “We aim to be a competitive employer of choice making maximum use of technology to obtain value for money and supporting a workforce able to work flexibly to support all residents and service users.
“This move is 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.
“No matter how our services are delivered, the first consideration must be the needs of the business and ensuring that our residents and businesses receive high quality, value for money, services.
“We need to identify ways of reducing operating expenditure, maximising the use of assets and removing unnecessary costs.
“The move allows us to make best use of vacant council-owned assets, eliminate significant annual costs that are being incurred at the present office location, and provide our staff with a modern working environment.
“The projected saving is around £300,000 a year, while the potential sale of St Peter’s Hill could generate a significant capital receipt. Crucially, there will also be a reduction in our carbon footprint – a key priority for us.”
Potential partnerships with other public sector organisations are being explored to develop a customer service hub in vacant ground floor units with the cinema complex.
The local trade unions have given their support to the move, which could be completed by March next year.