Agenda item


This report provides an update on the Preparing for the Future Programme.


The Panel considered a report which gave an update on the Preparing for the Future programme.  Amanda George, Director of Business Change and Customer Services, gave a presentation regarding the programme.  The presentation covered the following issues:


·  Preparing for the future programme overview

·  Keynsham Civic Centre redesign

·  Communication and engagement

·  Risk assessments and meeting spaces

·  Technology update

·  Key messages


It will be important to embrace the digital way of working which will provide increased flexibility for staff.  The Keynsham Civic Centre is currently in the design phase.  There will be an increase in the amount of team space including informal meeting areas.  In some areas pods will be installed to provide quiet working spaces.  Up to 650 staff at any one time will be able to work in the Civic Centre.  Around 50 hot desking spaces will also be provided in the Guildhall.


Some staff are currently able to come into the offices to work following a risk assessment by managers.


The first phase of laptops has been delivered to staff and hybrid meetings are currently being trialled which will allow some staff to join meetings remotely.


A copy of the presentation slides is attached as Appendix 1 to these minutes.


Panel members raised the following points and asked the following questions:

(Officer responses shown in italics)


Cllr McCabe asked about the number of additional journeys that would be made from Bath to get to Keynsham and measures being taken to encourage people out of their cars.  He felt that there should be signage at the railway station to guide people to the Guildhall.  He asked about the use of Citrix to access Zoom.  He queried whether a modular approach to office redesign would be taken in case any changes needed to be made in the future.


The officer explained that there will be a modular approach to the office redesign and that use of the offices will be monitored (e.g. number of desk bookings).  If certain spaces are not being used, then changes will be made.


There will be less travel by staff because they will not be going into the office 5 days a week.  There will also be hot desks available in the Guildhall for people who live in Bath and do not wish to, or need to, travel to Keynsham.  The suggestion regarding signposting will be taken on board.


When staff have Council laptops, they will not have to use Citrix to access Zoom or Microsoft Teams.


Cllr Hodge asked some questions about homeworking, risk assessments and whether there will really be a choice for staff.  She felt that figures are needed in advance of planning the design of the Civic Centre (such as the percentage of the overall role that is desk based and how much is collaborative).  She asked about feedback from employees regarding the new arrangements, for example from young staff who may live in shared accommodation.  She asked for more details regarding the equality assessments and the use of hotdesks by external clients.  She also stated that it would be helpful to see a copy of the transport assessment and the cost of the branding exercise.


The officer explained that there will be some choice for staff.  All teams will have an allocated team space and if there is an individual who cannot or does not wish to work from home then this can be managed.  The risk assessment process has worked well, and some people are already back working at the Civic Centre.  Nobody who has requested to return to the office following a risk assessment has been turned down.


Collaborative working will take place in the team spaces.  There will still be a significant number of desk spaces available for use.  There will be a booking system provided by Condecco for hot desks and this will allow staff to see who else has booked hot desks in a certain area so that they can co-ordinate their bookings with others and book a group of desks if necessary.


Details of the equalities impact assessments, staff feedback, costings and transport can be provided to Panel members.


Cllr Hughes expressed concern about car parking.  He also asked about the opportunities for creativity as home working does not encourage this.  He felt that the new ways of working will not suit everybody.  He asked about the ergonomics of the new plans including furniture and seating.


The officer explained that there will be confidential booths and screening to enable people to work quietly if they need to.  The seating will be of an appropriate design and this will be trialled.  The diagrams provided in the presentation are currently at the concept stage.


There is currently capacity for 550 staff to work in the Civic Centre and this will be increased to 650.  There will be collaborative space to enable creative and innovative work.


Cllr Elliott stated that success depends on genuine flexibility and consultation with employees.  He asked whether an employee wishing to work in an office 5 days a week would be able to do so.


The officer explained that yes, staff can come into the offices if they wish and that it would be up to managers as to how they schedule the working week for their team.  However, they may not be in the same office each day of the week.


Cllr MacFie asked about car parking for the Civic Centre as public car parks currently get very full.  He also queried whether the reception area would be able to be used for meetings with external people.


The officer explained that the current reception area in the Civic Centre is quite large but is not used effectively.  There should be opportunities to meet in reception to avoid going through the to the secure area.


It will be important to promote sustainable transport options, such as use of public transport, cycling and walking. 


Cllr Warrington asked about the costs and return on investment as there is still a shortfall of around £700k over 2 years.


The details of the costs and potential savings/income are contained within the report, but further information can be provided at a future meeting.


Cllr Hodge asked some further questions regarding design and the use of meeting tables.  She also expressed concern about the effect of the new ways of working on recruitment and retention and felt that it would be helpful to see whether there is a trend.  She also asked about mileage claims and training days.


The officer explained that there will be a balance regarding training with more blended learning and a mixture of online and in person courses.  The use of the meeting tables will be based on feedback received.  Staff have been positive and constructive about the proposed changes.  The ability for some staff to work from home is very helpful.  Officers are not aware of any changes to the staff retention figures but would keep this under review.  All local authorities in the area are changing their working practices in the same way as B&NES.


There are tax implications on mileage claims and, if staff are based at the Civic Centre, then this is the base that they should be claiming travel from.


Cllr Hughes explained that there is a building in Midsomer Norton providing shared office space which is owned by the Council.  This is currently not fully utilised, and he queried whether it could be used as office space for the Council.


This will be taken into consideration as several options are being considered, including whether to create locality hubs.


Cllr Warrington stated that capital costs at Lewis House, Bath should also be included when further financial information is provided.


The Chair thanked the officer for her presentation and the Panel RESOLVED:


(1)   To note the report.


(2)  To request officers to provide further information to panel members regarding equality impact assessments, staff feedback and transport assessments.


(3)  To note that officers will investigate the available office accommodation at Midsomer Norton raised by Cllr Hughes.


(4)  To ask that further details of the costs and potential income/savings of the preparing for the future programme be brought to a future meeting.

Supporting documents: