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Why council staff will continue working from home

PUBLISHED: 16:30 01 September 2020 | UPDATED: 22:18 01 September 2020

Most staff from Grafton House have been working from home since March.    Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Most staff from Grafton House have been working from home since March. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Council staff are being asked to continue working from home despite some wanting to return to their desks in Grafton House and Gipping House in Ipswich town centre, according to Conservative opposition leader Ian Fisher.

Signs went up on Grafton House stating the closure of the building due to Coronavirus    Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSigns went up on Grafton House stating the closure of the building due to Coronavirus Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

He said he had been contacted by several staff who wanted to return to working in their office – but had been told that would not be possible because the council buildings were no Covid secure.

Mr Fisher said he accepted many people were happy working at home, but some people felt they really needed to get back to their normal workplace.

MORE: Ipswich Central appeals for people to return to offices

He said: “I know it isn’t possible for everyone to go back to the office all the time, and it could only be a small proportion that could go back as the rules are at present – but I have been contacted by about half a dozen people who they want to get back to the office routine at least once or twice a week but the council says that isn’t possible.

Ipswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher wants more staff to be allowed back to its Grafton House headquarters. Picture: IPSWICH COUNCILIpswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher wants more staff to be allowed back to its Grafton House headquarters. Picture: IPSWICH COUNCIL

“I don’t think that’s good enough. If people do want to go back to their office and feel they would work better there, why shouldn’t they be able to go in at least on a part-time basis?

“I think councils like the borough should set an example. How can we urge other employers to bring back their staff if we aren’t prepared to do that ourselves?”

Council leader David Ellesmere said it was wrong to say that no staff were back at their desks in Grafton House – people who found it impossible to work at home for one reason or another or had work which could only be done in the office are now back.

MORE: Has the way we work changed for ever?

He said: “That has been agreed with their managers, but at present we only have about 30 people working in the office. We have been concentrating on getting public-facing staff back first – like those working in leisure centres, museums and in other places where they meet the public – but we are hoping to bring back more people from the start of October.”

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But this would not be everyone.

He added: “With the advice on social distancing as it stands, we would only be able to get about 20% of staff into the office – that is about 140 people – so we need to work out how to do that, probably with a rota system for those who want to come in.”

He said the borough was moving quicker to get staff back in than other local authorities – including the Conservative-controlled county council on the other side of Russell Road.

Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council’s leader, said: “Our offices have remained open to staff throughout lockdown, albeit with social distancing measures in place and only where necessary to deliver vital public services.

“Changes to our buildings continue to be made to meet the very latest Government guidance. In any case, many of our staff work out in the community, rather than offices, and have done so during the pandemic supporting vulnerable people.”


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