Wednesday, April 21, 2004

How to shoot yourself in the foot: Part One. Can't remember if I mentioned it, but when he left Mike had a letter complaining about Endeavour House printed in the local paper, and has apparently been banned from the building as a result.

Last night, their front page article went like this:

Hot air over new building

April 20, 2004 18:57

EFFICIENCY has gone out of the window - unlike any of the hot air at Endeavour House - a senior council worker has claimed today.

Staff at Suffolk County Council's much-vaunted new showpiece headquarters have found their move has been far from smooth, the frustrated council officer said. Martin Chiverton, a planning officer in the council's environment and transport department, said he has been left hot under the collar by his new working conditions in the building which cost £18m. This is despite some other workers praising how good Endeavour House is to work in The Evening Star last week.

"I have to say that is not my experience, or that of my colleagues in this department," said Mr Chiverton in response to their claims.

He said other staff found the new offices uncomfortable: "The massive atrium has no opening windows and no ventilation; when the sun shines it is uninhabitable," Mr Chiverton said. He said there was no air conditioning in the central area - and it was very uncomfortable on the fine days last week. "It's going to be hellish in the summer," he warned.

Basic facilities were also inadequate: "There are not enough gents' toilets (I cannot vouch for the ladies'). The only urinals are on the ground floor.

"I'm sure that TXU, who had the building designed for them, did not expect any men to work here!

"The food in the restaurant and coffee bar has gone upmarket, and so have the prices. The "coffee platform" looks more like an oil platform."

In addition Mr Chiverton criticised the IT provision in the building which cost for power company TXU £40m to build and which the council bought for less than half that price. He said: "We might have new screens for our computers but we still have the same basic computer and they are using an old operating system that the IT (Information Technology) staff don't know how to use. "They have to be linked up to our old server in St Edmund House - and there are no plans to move it over here," he said.

There was also insufficient storage space so files had to be archived and it took some time to retrieve them when necessary, he added.

Mr Chiverton also said the lack of visitors' parking at Endeavour House caused problems for people attending meetings in the new building - it was not acceptable to expect all of them to walk or use the bus.

Mr Chiverton said many of his colleagues had been irritated by the Star's interview with employees chosen by the council's public relations department last week. "They might be happy, but that's not true of everyone here - and I'm certainly not alone," he said.

RESPONDING to Mr Chiverton's criticisms a spokesman for the county council today said the atrium was naturally ventilated. And while it could get hot, it complied with all health and safety legislation.

He said: "Some work is still ongoing putting the finishes touches to Endeavour House but the building is due to be completed by the end of the month.

"Staff were informed of the building work in progress and we have kept disruption to a minimum," he said.

"Some teething problems have occurred which is only natural for a new building.

"We have experienced a few problems getting the balance right with the air conditioning as more people move in."

Different departments had used different computer systems in their previous offices which had caused a few problems since moving to the new headquarters - but these were being ironed out and most staff had not had any difficulties.

"Costly office space is no longer used for records that are not used frequently and new electronic systems will mean we don't need as many paper files in the future," he said.

"Staff have been weeding out old and unused files. The vast majority of the organisation has benefited from this process, creating far more efficient use of office space."

And the council rejected claims that the lack of parking would cause problems for visitors to Endeavour House. "There is plenty of public parking available nearby," said the spokesman.

"As part of our green travel plan we encourage the use of park and ride, cycling and public transport wherever possible but of course we would never suggest that these are the only modes of transport."

Staff surveys suggested most liked the new restaurant - but prices would have gone up whether they had moved or not.

And the spokesman maintained Endeavour House was a model of convenience: "The male toilets provided are more than adequate to meet the needs of the occupants of Endeavour House. The idea of not having urinals provides more flexibility."

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