Bristol City Council’s expensive office revamp

At a recent Bristol City Council (BCC) cabinet meeting it was identified that the council needs to reduce spending by £70m by 2014/15 — and so hopes to achieve this by spending £70m on revamping its offices…

It may seem crazy, but the headlining aims of this plan seem to point at potential money saving: reducing its current number of office buildings from 35 to 10 and encouraging council staff to make greater use of public transport for business. However, sadly, on closer inspection of BCC’s Resources Scrutiny Commission report on the Bristol Workplace Programme, it appears to be a costly scheme with very modest aims.

The objectives of the programme include the concentration of 5000 staff employed by BCC into four or five core buildings. So far so good, but the sale or re-use of 28 office buildings around the city is qualified by many of them being re-used for a variety of taxpayer funded community purposes. So not much real saving there. Indeed, the bulk of this public money will be spent on simply modernising and refurbishing offices, or, as they put it ‘internal fit-out, furniture, new IT infrastructure & equipment and organisational change.’ That means ‘docking stations will be fitted for mobile working in café space, booths, formal meeting areas and confidential space. All staff [will] receive a mobile device with web cam capability.’ Very nice.

This would, apparently help BCC to achieve one of their big ideas, which is to ‘Significantly improve flexible working arrangements for 5000 staff – mobile working with new technology, house-based working.’ The benefit of this will be mainly environmental as their reports flags up that ‘Increased home working may improve business resilience in the event that council buildings cannot be accessed’—due to catastrophic climate change. Well, that’s good to know that in a thousand years, when central Bristol is swallowed up by water, council workers sitting at home will still be operational!

Indeed, annual revenue savings predicted for this project are an unimpressive £1.67m from 2016. Total cash savings are estimated at £35.3m over the lifetime of the programme. Is this good enough? Surely, they’d be better off not spending the £70m in the first place? The option of doing nothing by the council is slapped down as it would create ‘significant negative impact on both operational delivery and organisational reputation.’ That, as a taxpayer, I could live with.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience.  More info. Okay