11:30AM, Friday 14 January 2022
Slough Borough Council is locked in a period of uncertainty over what to do with its current HQ – rent the unused space or sell the building.
Councillors and officers discussed the possible future of Observatory House at a meeting on Wednesday.
Richard West, executive director of customer and community, gave a presentation on means of saving money for the council by changing how it uses some of its resources.
One option is to rent more floor space in Observatory House.
The idea is subject to analysis by independent auditors who will give their views on the value of all the council’s assets, and whether it’s better to sell them off or keep them and rent them out.
Until then, Slough Borough Council cannot sign leases or make agreements for rent.
“We don’t want to enter into agreements and then find we want to sell this building. It’s really important that we bide our time,” said Mr West.
Part of the consideration is the energy costs of running the building while so many staff are working at home.
However, there are hopes to bring more staff back into the offices eventually.
There is also ‘no appetite’ for renting office space in the area at the moment – though Mr West believes the demand for ‘grade A office space’ will pick up in the future.
Conservative councillor Wayne Strutton (Haymill and Lynch Hill) raised concerns about the car park at Observatory House with 20 electric charging points that are not being used.
He lamented the amount of potential income being lost by not opening that space to others – and said he found it ‘hard to accept’ Mr West’s presentation when it made no mention of this issue.
“It’s unacceptable. This council needs to be taking some steps to make income where it can,” he said.
“Your point is well made [but] if we sell the building, whoever buys it will want to know about the car parking,” said Mr West.
“There is the option to block-sell the parking space, but it’s a big part of the attractiveness of this building.”
The independent evaluation of the ‘best consideration’ for the council’s assets is due to take place in January/February this year.