Agenda item


Purpose of the item:


The overall intention is for the Committee to have sight of the office estate proposals in advance of any further reports being submitted to Cabinet, to provide review and support for key recommendations as well as highlighting any areas of concern.


N.B There are Part 2 annexes to this item.




Natalie Bramhall, Cabinet Member for Property and Waste


Leigh Whitehouse, Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director for Resources

Simon Crowther, Director – Land and Property

Matthew Pizii, Client Account Manager

Dominic Barlow, Assistant Director, - Corporate Landlord

Brendon Kavanagh, Portfolio Lead – Corporate


Key points raised during the discussion:


  1. The Chairman thanked the service for the detailed reports. The item went to Cabinet in December 2021 and it was decided that it should also be presented to the Resources and Performance Select Committee. Cabinet approved a potential spend just in excess of £20 million with further strategy, analysis and subsequent cabinet approval in light of those outcomes.


  1. A Member asked if it would be better value for money to refurbish Quadrant Court than to sell it and find a suitable alternative site, it was asked why SCC seemed averse to refurbishing its existing properties. The Cabinet Member for Property and Waste said that the current requirement was to provide a healthy, fit for purpose, energy efficient space for staff and it would be difficult to create energy efficiency at Quadrant Court. As agreed at Cabinet, the team were reviewing a wider scope of options. The County Councils property strategies needed to be dynamic and adaptable over time with the County Council refurbishing buildings where the strategy was for longer term retention.


  1. A Member, in relation to the Cabinet Member for Property and Waste’s comment that buildings were not renovated if there were no plans to retain them, noted that if property was not regularly updated an incentive for closure was created. The Cabinet Member for Property and Waste conveyed that a new team within Land and Property had undertaken work to improve, change and move with the times.


  1. A Member queried the potential move of Adult Social Care local teams out of district and borough offices and asked had the impact to district and borough finances been considered. The Cabinet Member for Property and Waste concluded that Surrey County Council ensured good working partnerships whilst prioritising its own financial position and the critical services funded through a limited budget. With current financial pressures, all public bodies were looking at how to deliver modernised space at the best value. Districts and boroughs would be able to define individual impacts as the program progressed. Discussions were ongoing with potential partners to co-locate as part of options reviewed as already facilitated at Woodhatch Place. Place based assessments of all Surrey County Council’s decisions enabled consideration of projects and opportunities in and around the districts and boroughs as part of the final decision for relocating teams. Development of the Agile Offices Estate Strategy had been commercially sensitive, however, engagement with the boroughs and districts began in December last year ahead of Cabinet and a detailed sequence of discussions would commence soon with the majority of proposed moves due for November 2023. The Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director for Resources explained that the Cabinet report had been shared with colleagues in districts and boroughs and following reviews of locations within their buildings. The reaction being one of recognition and understanding and in many cases aligning with their plans to review accommodation requirements. Decisions would not be made to leave any short-term difficult decisions and actions would be undertaken over a period of time, allowing for quality engagement. Feedback had been positive so far.


  1. A Member asked if the Service had taken into account travel distances for staff as a result of office moves and the impact on climate change targets. The Cabinet Member for Property and Waste stated that one benefit of providing a standardised agile workspace was that staff were moved away from having to commute to a single office location every day. Staff would be assigned an administration base for HR purposes but would have the ability to work from varied locations, reducing travel times and costs.


  1. A Member asked if housing provision could be considered when an office building is being disposed of. The Cabinet Member for Property and Waste confirmed that housing was a consideration each time a property was brought forward.


  1. The Chairman noted dilemmas faced by SCC in relation to what should be spent to provide efficient value for money options and to improve our carbon efficiency.


  1. A Member asked if a full public sector office estate portfolio survey had been carried out to enable partly used buildings to be utilised. The Cabinet Member for Property explained that discussions were ongoing with partners to determine options for co-location. Most local government bodies in Surrey were also reviewing the way that they work and what form of office space was required going forward. A significant engagement programme had been undertaken to ensure the transformation would not impact the delivery of services but would enhance delivery and collaboration wherever possible. A Member requested that the Committee be provided with information relating to this in due course.


  1. A Member was concerned to learn that district teams were to be moved out of districts and boroughs and queried the dissemination of information regarding this. An Officer explained that Surrey Chief Executives had been updated before Christmas 2021 to cascade information throughout the districts and boroughs. There was enthusiasm for a partnership solution and positive engagement in looking at solutions with the intention of ensuring the right space for the right purpose. 


  1. A Member asked if it had been considered how residents would travel to relocated offices given that public transport could be problematic and the fact that lower income families may not own cars. An Officer agreed that the connectivity and accessibility of our agile office estate would be critical with a key factor of the programme being that SCC can deliver for residents. Locations were being considered with staff and residents in mind.


  1. A Member noted that some administration departments did not need to be located at sites were residents visited as these departments could be accessed via email or telephone. The Cabinet Member for Property and Waste confirmed that a review of asset utilisation and condition was planned to rationalise the estate to ensure it's was affordable and fit for purpose. As with all organisations, new ways of working needed to be tested post COVID-19 with a long-term strategy to deliver modern, accessible and healthy workspaces staff whilst having the flexibility to adapt and at minimal cost. An Officer said that detailed staff service engagement had been undertaken throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to understand methods of bringing services to residents. Consideration of other transformation projects to changing the ways of working in conjunction with those cited within the greener futures remit was ongoing. The use of Surrey Office of Data Analytics had been incorporated to look at the socio-economic picture across Surrey, overlaying that with staff locations. All demands had been considered to determine the best place for of our offices to be.


  1. The Chairman asked if there was confidence that Woodhatch Place would remain the headquarters of SCC. The Cabinet Member for Property and Waste confirmed that Woodhatch Place would remain the headquarters of SCC.


  1. The Chairman asked if there was a strategy to cover the current maintenance backlog of offices and over what timescale. The Cabinet Member for Property and Waste confirmed that the maintenance backlog would decrease as the size of the estate was reduced to a more modernised a footprint over the next four years.


  1. The Chairman asked how the Committee could review and make recommendations before the next report was submitted to Cabinet. The Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director for Resources stated that options were currently being reviewed and once set out could be discussed with the Committee before Cabinet. The Chairman agreed that this would be welcome and it was important that Members of the Committee should be informed with regards to the strategy, with further involvement before Cabinet preferred.


Actions/further information to be provided:


  1. The Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Resources to discuss options for consideration with the Resources and Performance Select Committee prior to Cabinet.




The Resources and Performance Select Committee:

  1. Asks Cabinet Member to ensure that an adequate regular repairs programme with corresponding annual maintenance budget is in place and reflected in the Directorate/Council’s budget for 2022/23 and beyond.


  1. Requests Cabinet Member to share the result of Surrey’s public sector office estate portfolio survey/audit with the Select Committee.


  1. Asks Cabinet Member: to consider how best to work jointly with boroughs, districts and other partners in terms of the effective utilisation of the Council’s office estate; ensure that all Surrey County Council office estate buildings are accessible to residents; and support net zero and climate change ambitions.


  1. A briefing to be provided to the Select Committee once a further paper to Cabinet has been prepared but before a decision is taken.


The Chairman paused the meeting at 12.28pm for a comfort break. The meeting was resumed at 12.35pm



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