Councils deny health and safety risk as report condemns old buildings

Local authorities have admitted they have some way to go to ensure their buildings are suitable for staff after a survey revealed that half of all council offices were in poor condition.

Close to half of the 86 local authorities councils polled for the Local Authority Office Accommodation: A Determination of Change survey by property agent DTZ admitted their buildings were in poor or very poor condition in terms of supporting operational needs and objectives. Two-thirds said they had plans in place for refurbishment or consolidation.

A spokeswoman for trade union Unison questioned whether enough was being done to ensure public sector employees’ health and safety.

“Many council buildings are quite old, so they may no longer be suitable for today’s modern office,” she told Personnel Today. “Despite the difficult economic circumstances, employers still have a duty of care to their employees, and they must make sure that health and safety remains a priority.”

The Local Government Association admitted many council buildings dated back hundreds of years, but said safety was a priority for HR departments. The survey found that 90% of all council buildings were more than 20 years old.

“The survey demonstrates there is a bit of work still to do, but it is encouraging that more than half said there had been refurbishment or consolidation change,” he told Personnel Today. “Lots of council buildings date back to the early 20th century, even to Victorian times, so obviously they come with their own upkeep challenges.”

Jim Grierson, director of corporate consulting for DTZ, said the public sector had under-invested in its estate for many years.

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