Desks and offices go as part of ‘agile future’

COUNCIL bosses in North East Lincolnshire have begun moving out of their headquarters as part of a cost-cutting drive that will see a radical overhaul of their working environment.

The eight-member cabinet and the corporate management team at North East Lincolnshire Council started their exodus from the Municipal Offices in Grimsby’s Town Hall Square yesterday, and will be followed by remaining staff over the next few months.

They will be rehomed in temporary accommodation at The Knoll, a council building overlooking the waterfront in Cleethorpes, until the completion of improvements to the Municipal Offices, which are being redesigned to enable more staff to work there.

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When they return there will more staff than desks, with a range of different working environments planned.

The move is part of the Agile Future project, which aims to save £1m a year in accommodation costs, and will see the authority cut the number of office buildings it occupies from 20 to a “retained estate” based around two main hubs - the Municipal Offices and Cleethorpes Civic Offices.

Council leader Chris Shaw, deputy leader Mick Burnett, and chief executive are among those moving to Cleethorpes this week.

Coun Shaw said: “As part of our work in reducing back office costs we are reducing the number of properties we have and manage.

“Obviously, having fewer properties will be cheaper for the council, but we are also looking to improve efficiency by introducing more dynamic, or agile, ways of working.

“The initial phase, which saw changes to the building and the way people work at the Civic Offices, was a great success and we expect the project at the Municipal Offices will mirror its achievements.”

He added: “Decisions are still to be made about which teams will be based where and what the outcome will look like for staff at the end of the project.

“In the short term, it should also give a boost to the local economy in Cleethorpes as a number of people will be temporarily re-located to the Knoll and Civic.

“And ultimately, retaining key accommodations bases in this way will help with the viability of the town centres in Grimsby and Cleethorpes.”

Like most other local authorities in the country, the council has to make huge savings as it adjusts to large cuts in funding from central government.

North East Lincolnshire Council has to save about £58m over the five years to 2015/16, about £30,000 a day.

It saved £14m in the last financial year, is on track to save about £13m this year, and plans to reduce spending by a further £14m over the next financial year.

Mr Hunter said £2m had been set aside in the capital budget for the Agile Future programme, including costs related to vacating buildings, improvements to retained buildings and of an annual backlog of maintenance and improvement work.

The money will also be used to invest in the council’s remaining offices over the next four years to carry out essential repairs and support “agile” ways of working.

“Our property rationalisation programme aims to not only make considerable annual savings, but also enable the council and our staff to work in a smarter, more efficient way,” he added.

“We will endeavour at all times to make any office moves as easy as possible for our staff and look forward to having many more of our council employees based within the town centre hubs.”

By the end of the project in 2015 the council aims to have 0.5 workstations for each full-time member of office staff; leading to the use of some new buzz words as the authority adopts different ways of working.

The new set-up will have “breakout” space, where staff will be able to gather for impromptu meetings, and “touchdown space”, which will provide a similar function, while “hot-desking”, or sharing desks, will also be used.

There will also be more use of wireless technology to allow greater freedom of movement when working.