12:25PM, Tuesday 26 October 2021
The leader of Slough Borough Council has not ruled out selling the local authority’s multi-million pound headquarters in the future.
Slough’s financial woes have left the council needing to offload £600 million worth of assets to pay back its spiralling borrowing costs – which stand at £760 million.
The Observatory House building cost the council £41 million when it completed its move from its former home at St Martin’s Place in 2019.
But the venue came under criticism in an independent report concerning the governance of the council which was released yesterday.
Former Salford City Council chief executive Jim Taylor, who carried out the report for the Government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said: “The wi-fi and in some cases, phone signal, do not work effectively in the council HQ.
“Children’s social workers have been unable to work from the new building for many months.”
Council leader James Swindlehurst told a media briefing yesterday that the council is reviewing the future of every asset it owns, including the venue at 25 Windsor Road.
He said: “It might be an asset that down the road we have to look at but we are taking our steps to do this in a rational and organised way and it will be non-operational assets that we will dispose of in the short term rather than the building that is the headquarters for our entire staff operation.”
The Labour councillor told the Express that the local authority had planned to pay back the money spent on the building by renting out the top two floors but this strategy had been hit by ‘frustrating’ delays.
He added: “It might well be that we’re advised at some point once Crossrail is here and the office market is buoyant that there may come a window when sale is useful to us.
“We never thought we’d be in here forever but we do intend to do a decent run in here to justify our expenditure.”
The council leader said that work has been ongoing since July to fix the problems identified with the building by Mr Taylor’s independent report.
There will be displays at Windsor Racecourse and Legoland, local fireworks in Burnham and Twyford and smaller displays at schools in the Royal Borough.