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WORKING FROM HOME: Prominent office building to be sold off

WORKING FROM HOME: Prominent office building to be sold off

Image: LDRS

Birmingham council looks set to sell one of its largest and most iconic buildings worth millions of pounds, it has been announced, as it moves toward a working-from-home model.

It is thought the building could be demolished or turned into student flats.

1 Lancaster Circus, an office building with the capacity for 2,000 workers located on the edge of the city centre, has been identified as a ‘key redevelopment opportunity’.

It was agreed that the building would be vacated within a one to two year period.

The council expects to save at least £1.4 million initially, with a target to have 80-85 per cent of staff working in an ‘agile, flexible manner’ going forward.

Described as a ‘gateway’ location to the city centre by the leader of the council Ian Ward, the building served as the headquarters of West Midlands County Council until 1986, and has been used as the home of the council’s architecture, engineering, building, finance, environmental and consumer services departments since then.

A £23 million conversion of the building to an open-plan layout was also completed as recently as September 2010.

In cabinet papers discussed today (April 20), the council said that they were ‘working on a 50 per cent reduction in Council Administration Buildings (CAB) by 2022 with a 75 per cent reduction target over the next 5 years’, with 10 Woodcock Street, Sutton New Road, Lifford House, New Aston House and the Council House expected to be further utilised in future.

Deputy Leader of the Council Cllr Brigid Jones (Bournbrook and Selly Park) outlined how the renewed focus on ‘flexible working’ would operate in practice.

“Covid has really accelerated a lot of the workforce changes that people have been predicting and trying to bring about for years, but just haven’t taken route,” she said.

“Flexible working is always something the council has aspired to but never really achieved until now. Before Covid we had about 15-20 per cent of our staff working from home or agilely, and that’s gone up to 80-85 per cent, and the staff surveyed showed an appetite to continue with that.

“81 per cent of our staff said in our most recent survey that they either enjoy working from home or they prefer to work flexibly. And as an organisation we are responding to that demand.

“The result of that is that we will need less office space in the future – we’ve also got an opportunity here to relocate some of what we do have into neighbourhoods around the city to reduce travel time for staff and also to provide local centres which people know that we need.

“It also provides more opportunity for staff with caring responsibilities who are predominantly women, or staff who are living with disabilities as well.

“With the office space that we do keep we’ll be reconfiguring that away from banks of desks where you turn up, work, and go home again, toward using that space for collaborative working, because that now is where we’re really seeing the demand from staff.

“And while working from home will be an option for staff, obviously we’ll still be expecting people to come in from time to time for training, team building, team collaboration – there are still some roles that need to take physically in person.

“It’s important to us as well that staff do retain links to Birmingham – we’re a place-based organisation and we’re here to serve the people of the city of Birmingham, nowhere else, and obviously it’s important that our staff are either living here or are regularly coming into the city because they live nearby –  that is really vital when you are serving a place-based organisation and its people.”

The terms of sale will be subject to further council reports.

Words: Tom Dare, Local Democracy Reporter


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