If you’ve not yet visited the newly refurbished Council House, I hope you can.
From the outside, except for the strange glass panel, it looks much the same as it has since it was built 70 years ago – but cleaner. But inside it’s a different matter.
Walking into the new reception area is like walking into a different world; bright, airy and expansive. As well as the general reception area, there are more specific advice/help desks for council tax, housing benefit, and the like are there just in front of you, with rooms available for private conversations if needed.
From here some of the open plan office areas are visible – a far change from the bare corridors and space-wasting individual offices that used to be hidden behind these external walls.
There is even a public cafe – not yet open – with views out over the river.
There’s only one thing I so far feel is missing – easily available information about Derby and what’s on here.
At the old Council reception areas one could easily pick up leaflets on anything from what’s on at the Assembly Rooms or museums to a copy of the Derby cycle map. The new Council House had only one small stand of rather official and un-interesting leaflets.
Nearly all the council staff will now be housed in this one building, cutting the number of buildings the council needs to rent, maintain, heat and clean.
It has been refurbished to a high energy efficiency standard, cutting costs further – it now gets an A rated Energy Performance Certificate and is BREEAM ‘excellent’. Indeed all these savings will more than pay for the loan required to do this work. This was a cheaper option than building new council offices from scratch and kept the historic look of the area, which many people wanted.
It still think it was a brave decision which we councillors took back in 2010, on behalf of the people of Derby, to effectively take out a £40m mortgage for the city. And I am pleased with what I’ve seen so far. Many thanks go to the project team that has delivered this project.
The Council’s website explains more of the expected benefits which is why council officers and – at one time or another – all political parties accepted that this major investment in council accommodation was important.
Refurbishment and upgrading of existing buildings is needed for nearly all properties to make them more energy efficient. We’re doing our house piecemeal – for example adding insulation to external walls before we redecorate a room. And it should be cost effective in energy savings for most people. This is the principle that the new ‘Green Deal’ is based on. It means that you don’t need to pay for the energy efficiency work up front, but it is paid from savings in energy bills later. There is more information here.