County council to spend £500,000 on more HQ office equipment

One Angel Square
One Angel Square

Northamptonshire County Council is spending half-a-million pounds on putting in new desks and furniture at its multi-million pound rented headquarters because some staff have nowhere to work.

The authority, which opened its £53 million One Angel Square headquarters in Northampton in October 2017 and sold it six months later to a private equity to bail itself out of its huge financial difficulties, now needs to spend the sum on more office equipment to ensure that staff have a place to work from when they go into the building.

A scrutiny meeting held last month (April) heard the council’s social workers are regularly coming into the building and finding they do not have a desk to work from. They are often not able to work alongside their colleagues, which has been leading to communication problems and some staff feeling alienated.

A finance report to the Conservative-run cabinet’s meeting next week says the £500,000 will be spent in two phases with 80 new computers put onto desks that were originally intended for laptop use and the second phase will see trendy break-out furniture replaced with banks of 320 new desks and computers.

Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Chris Stanbra said: “It is clear this should have been thought about in the first place. However, the money does need to be spent as they did not provide enough space for staff and may have assumed that more people would use their laptops.

“It is another legacy issue from the weird and wonderful ‘next generation’ scenario that proved to be unachievable.”

The councillor also questioned the cost of the additional 400 new equipped work stations, which work out at an average cost of £1,250 each.

One Angel Square is built over a number of floors and has a huge central atrium that is often used by the chief executive and leader to give addresses to staff. It was commissioned to bring together under one roof council staff who were working out of a dozen different locations in the county.

The building was sold to Canada Life investments in April last year for £64million and will be brought back by the authority on a 35-year lease deal.

A large chunk of the proceeds of the building sale are being used by the authority to pay off the £40m it overspent in the 2017-18 financial year.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “The county council has been located in One Angel Square for almost two years.

“During this time, working practices and use of space has been monitored to make sure the building use is efficient.

“The subsequent changes are a result of this review process.”

Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporting Service