The Liberal Democrat Group on Dundee City Council has called for steps to be taken to speed up a review of the amount of accommodation the council uses in Dundee House. Now that home and hybrid working is common, the council should downscale the amount of accommodation used in the building. This would save both rental charges and rates costs.
Group leader and West End councillor Fraser Macpherson said :
“I have on numerous occasions raised at council committees the fact that given changes in working patterns walking into Dundee House gives the impression at times of walking onto the Mary Celeste.”
“Two points arise from this: public access to council buildings needs to be improved. Frankly, this has fallen away badly since the pandemic. The other one is that the amount of accommodation the council actually needs in the building needs to be urgently reviewed.”
Dundee City Council agreed a £23.8 million “leaseback” deal which saw the property handed over to insurance giant Canada Life in August 2019 and the council now pays rental on the building. The Liberal Democrat Group say that it is ridiculous that the council – and therefore Dundee Council Taxpayers – is paying for rental of the full building and the considerable rates bill – on a building that it is not fully using. It has asked senior officers for clarification on current occupancy rates and also rental and non-domestic rates annual costs.
The Liberal Democrat Group raised the need for an urgent review with the Chief Executive. The Head Of Design & Property Services at Dundee City Council has assured the group as follows :
“I can confirm that officers are currently carrying out an exercise to determine the appropriate level and type of spaces the council requires to operate from, moving away from the post pandemic environment.”
“As part of this exercise we are working across the services and also reaching out to other public sector and appropriate organisations who may require accommodation that the council can provide.”
“As this exercise progresses we will be looking to have the appropriate level of accommodation being utilised, managed and maintained by the council.”
Councillor Macpherson said:
“It is good that the council is reviewing its accommodation need but we are seeking assurances that this will be undertaken promptly. The longer the council sits on the full Dundee House accommodation that it really does not need, the more money it is unnecessarily costing the Dundee Council Taxpayer. We are also seeking clarification of the contractual agreement with Canada Life to see what scope there is for reducing floorspace and rental costs.”
He has also reiterated his call for better public face to face access of Dundee City Council premises and staff. In July, following raising this with senior council officers, the Chief Executive agreed to a very limited drop-in appointment service in City Square. Councillor Macpherson said the council has to work harder at its engagement with the people of Dundee.
“In our view, the council should be increasing the availability of drop-in appointments for the Dundee public so that’s an option for everyone with an issue or problem with council services.”
“For many, online facilities for interacting about council services work fine but they do not work for everyone, particularly older folk who often do not use online services. Being able to easily have a face-to-face meeting with a council officer is not an unreasonable expectation and I want the council to expand that.”