A councillor has called homeworkers “lazy” as South Kesteven District Councillors agree a move to the top floor of Grantham’s Savoy Cinema in a bid to save £300,000 a year.
A meeting of the authority’s full council voted to approve a budget of £500,000 for the move which leaders hope will create flexible office space and a public sector hub.
Conservative council leader Kelham Cooke told members: “This move will allow us to make best use of a vacant and effectively council-owned assets, eliminate significant annual costs which are being incurred at the present office location, and provide our staff with that modern open plan flexible office space which should really harness that co working space.”
“I hope that all members will positively endorse this move to save us council taxpayers money, but also to provide our staff with the appropriate office space and to allow us to work much more flexibly,” he said.
Councillors in the main agreed their current office was in need of some work with Conservative Councillor Mark Whittington calling it an “absolute disgrace” while Independent Councillor Paul Wood said that even 20 years ago it was “in quite a bad state”.
Unaligned Councillor Ian Selby, however, was not a fan of the “cultural shift” towards hybrid working or staff working from home.
“For me, working from home is a culture that breeds laziness,” he said.
He said he had spoken to one person who thought productivity would go down as people “spent an awful lot of time” getting cups of coffee and food before “slowly walking back to your laptop and forgetting what you’re doing”.
He, along with some others, questioned whether the move would make the council less open and accessible.
Labour Councillor Lee Steptoe disagreed with Councillor Selby, himself having had to teach teenagers for several hours a day from home.
“I was doing my job and I know that there are people in this council, and up and down the country, that won’t be eating cheese or drinking wine, they will have been working very, very hard.
“This idea that people working from home are ‘lazy’ is a ‘lazy’ assumption from a ‘lazy’ man – originally the Prime Minister,” he said.
Councillor Steptoe said the move was “inevitable” but warned the council faced “ridicule” and warned the PR around the move needed to be good.
“I hear open rudeness about a council moving upstairs into a cinema,” he said.
“Ordinary people across this town can’t believe it, some are disgusted, more of them see it as an as an absolute joke. So make sure that your PR is good.”
Councillors also questioned if the space could be better used for community work, or general revitalisation of the town.