The Highways Agency have caused a stir by confirming that they will be taking almost half of the office space at the much anticipated The Cube building when it opens in 2010.
The Cube is the final stage of the high-end Mailbox development, which also boasts many restaurants, luxury apartments and a Harvey Nichols. But letters sent to the Birmingham Post suggest that the Agency’s upgrading from Broadway at Five Ways to this pricey new location is a less than popular move with the general public.
Grahame Dalton, chief executive of the Highways Agency, clearly doesn’t feel he has to go to any great pains to placate the baying crowd, issuing this rather bland statement that completely dodges having to counter any of the most obvious objections:
“It is increasingly important that as a Government agency we work in modern, high quality, sustainable office space which supports our people and provides them with the best tools for the job. We need space that allows people to work as efficiently and effectively as possible.
"With this in mind, The Cube offers us ideal accommodation for high performing teams at a competitive price.”
It’s difficult to imagine how this new space could vary so wildly from the Agency’s previous offices at Five Ways that we’re being led to believe the massive investment will actually stimulate Highways Agency employees to perform better. What ‘tools’ do these people need, aside from what can be found on most office desks in the country? And just why is this place being judged as more ‘sustainable’ than the last? Broadway at Five Ways seems to service a great many other companies, and certainly doesn’t appear to be falling down just yet.
John Byron who lives in Birmingham wrote a letter into today’s Birmingham Post to suggest a more truthful statement to replace the latter:
“What is should say is ‘it’s only taxpayers money so let’s spend as much as we can and get the most expensive and newest accommodation we can find’.”
It’s true that of the various office spaces that have sprung up in Birmingham (or are still trying to) it’s unlikely that The Cube represents the cheapest prices available. The building’s location and design alone mark it out as swanky, grade A type stuff, so why – just when so many private companies couldn’t possibly dream off it – is one of our public bodies are laying down the readies for the plushest property available in the city?
Even though it's our money on the line, the Highways Agency doesn't seem to have a real answer.
No doubt Mr. Dalton is sitting tight, waiting for any commotion to blow over so that he can happily sink into his sumptuous, taxpayer-funded leather chair come 2010, but as the media report darker financial times ahead and we all batten down the hatches for a forthcoming tempest, it’s clear that these instances of government bodies unashamedly flashing our cash around will soon start to breed a real resentment within the bosom of the electorate.