Council plan major refurbishment of the Ryefield Centre to provide more office space
With a large proportion of employees successfully working from home since March 2020 due to Covid-19, Herefordshire Council has agreed revised plans that support staff to work from locations across the county and reduce the number of offices in Hereford.
As part of the Council’s ‘Better Ways of Working’ initiative to enable staff to work flexibly from locations across the county, in February 2020 Cabinet approved plans to reduce council office accommodation in Hereford by reconfiguring working space at Plough Lane with staff supported to work from alternative locations including market town multi-agency offices.
Since then there have been major changes in working practises to ensure staff and public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic. The council has had to revisit how it does everything, and the majority of council staff are now working from home. In light of the effectiveness of these new arrangements and the positive response of staff, Cabinet yesterday, Thursday 23rd July, agreed revised plans that establish working from home as the default for the majority of council employees. Office space will be prioritised for services where essential for their work and meeting space will be available for collaborative working.
Staff will relocate from Elgar House and Nelson House in Hereford with the offices at Plough Lane reconfigured to support this. As part of the decision a major refurbishment of the Ryefield Centre in Ross-on-Wye which will provide more office space in the market town, while in Leominster there will be increased capacity at the multi-agency office with the Old Priory no longer needed for offices. There are also other office sites in Hereford that will be freed-up for alternative use.
In the decision details for the Ryefield Centre it states: “A decision was made on 12th March 2018 to decommission the Ryefield Centre in Ross-on-Wye. As an alternative option this decision could still proceed creating a revenue saving and income from the sale of the property. However, within the new proposals the Ryefield Centre would become a strategically located base in the south of the county with extended office use as an MAO and meeting/collaboration space. The Ryefield centre costs in the region of £60k per annum to operate therefore to be viable the centre would need to share costs with another organisation or offset costs with a range of services using the site. Opportunities to share the building with another public sector organisation is being explored through the One Public Estate programme.”
The changes will be implemented within the £850k budget originally agreed by Cabinet in February, with the expenditure to be off-set by savings on building costs over the next few years. As well as saving accommodation costs in the longer-term, the plans also look to decrease the employee carbon footprint from reduced travel.
The decision papers can be found here: http://councillors.herefordshire.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=50034383&Opt=0
Councillor Gemma Davies, Cabinet Member for Commissioning, Procurement and Assets, said: “’Better Ways of Working’ recognises that the way we all work is changing, and Covid-19 has meant that we have had to look again at how we do everything. The plans put in place to support agile working has meant council staff have quickly and effectively adapted to different ways of working over the past few months, and have clearly demonstrated that with the right support working flexibly from a number of locations can be achieved successfully. We cannot thank them enough for this.
“Like all councils across the country, we need to carefully consider how we can provide high-quality services to our residents while managing our limited budgets. If we can maximise the potential of home working and use of multi-agency offices in the market towns this will provide more opportunities for truly county-wide working while making savings on accommodation in the longer term.
“We will also reduce the number of people travelling into Hereford for work, which helps to decrease congestion and responds to the climate emergency.”