More council offices are likely to be rented out to other organisations because staff are continuing to work from home.
Over the coming year, Brighton and Hove City Council plans to let out the vacant fourth floor of Bartholomew House, opposite Brighton Town Hall, and to vacate the third floor too.
An advert on the Rightmove website offered third and fourth floor offices at Barts House for £22.50 per square foot – and from £10,794 per calendar month or £129,528 a year.
Green councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones told councillors about the plans in response to a Conservative motion asking for details on how many council staff were working from home.
The Tories also asked about the potential budget benefits of downsizing and leasing out office space.
At a meeting of the full council last night (Thursday 3 February), Conservative councillor Alistair McNair said that the council had a “duty to ensure buildings represent good value for money”.
He suggested renting out spaces to businesses, charities and the civic-minded, citing Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, which spent £5 million converting its town hall into office space for rent.
Councillor McNair criticised the Greens who voted down his request for a report to spell out how many staff were working from home and building occupancy rates.
He said: “A little flexibility is welcome but why can’t staff work here (Hove Town Hall) at least three or four days a week?
“There is evidence office work is better for our mental health. There is evidence home working benefits the most highly paid staff.
“But if that is not going to happen, we have a duty to look into new ways of using our public spaces.”
Councillor Hugh-Jones said that Councillor McNair should know about the progress with “decanting council buildings” as he attended the cross-party Asset Management Board in November.
She said that the council had spent the past 12 years consolidating its office space and modernising its working practices in line with a strategy set up by the last Conservative administration (2007-11).
Since introducing the strategy, the council had reduced its office accommodation by more than 60 per cent, saving £3.4 million.
And selling King’s House, on Hove seafront, had raised £30 million in “capital receipts”.
Councillor Hugh-Jones said: “It is important to note that we need to balance face-to-face communications with residents against the resources.
“Obviously, in an ideal world, everybody would like to be able to pop down to the town hall and speak to someone face to face.
“In an ideal world, we would be able to pay for copious amounts of public toilets. That’s just not the world we’re working in.
“It’s vital that we maximise our chance of making savings while continuing to have to deliver services.”
She said that the council was looking at the future of its buildings and in the longer term could even let out the second and first floors of Bartholomew House, in Brighton.
Councillor Hugh-Jones added: “We will be reviewing options for the future of Brighton and Portslade town halls, with the whole operational estate to ensure it reflects any future service delivery changes.”
After the meeting, Conservative leader Steve Bell raised concerns that the council was proposing to sell Portslade Town Hall.
His comments came after a fellow Conservative councillor, Carol Theobald, had asked a question about the siting of the Max Miller statue.
She asked a “supplementary” question about the future of Portslade Town Hall but it was ruled out of order because it was on an unrelated matter.
The council has since issued a statement saying that it has no plans to sell the building, in Victoria Road, Portslade, which became the town hall in 1959.