Dozens of Croydon Council staff are being asked to work from home tomorrow, after faulty plumbing in Fisher’s Folly, the borough’s £140 million office building, has caused flooding on at least one of the floors.
This is particularly embarrassing timing for the council chief executive, Jo Negrini, who is presiding over a headquarters building where there are not enough desks for all her staff and which increasingly obviously is not fit for purpose, coming just after she has been named as the recipient of a “prestigious” award from an architects’ association.
It will also raise further serious questions about the standard of work carried out in the building (which some persist in calling Bernard Weatherill House), and the extravagant cost to build – reckoned to be at least £100 million more than similar-sized office blocks delivered in London in the past five years.
The purpose-build “hub”, which opened just three years ago, was delivered as part of CCURV, the Croydon Urban Regeneration Vehicle joint partnership between the council and John Laing, the financial details of which the previous Tory administration, under their then leader, Mike Fisher, kept strictly secret from the public and even elected councillors.
Tony Newman, leader of Croydon’s Labour group, promised to “blow open the books” on the exorbitant costs of Fisher’s Folly and the secretive CCURV arrangements once he won control of the council.
But nearly three years on, that is another of the mounting number of Newman’s broken election promises, and one which this weekend’s flood in the council’s “prestigious” office block is still proving to be a costly extravagance for the borough’s Council Tax-payers.
Over the summer, the council has taken in corporate “lodgers” in the top four floors of Fisher’s Folly, in an effort to bring in some extra cash to help balance its books.
But shifting council employees out of floors 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the council office block means that there remains just six desks for every 10 staff members in a building which was supposedly designed for the council’s sole use. This has caused frustration among many staff, who often have to queue in the morning to get some desk space from which to carry out their duties on behalf of the people of Croydon. And to think that Negrini’s predecessor as CEO used to say that, “Efficiency is in our DNA”.
Several sources in the council have been in touch with Inside Croydon about the flood in the Folly; it is not only from the council’s lavatories that there are frequent leaks.
It is suggested that this weekend’s flooding has not affected the floors being used by the council’s lodgers, but has affected at least three “zones” on the fourth floor. There is also a possibility that some water has seeped through to the third floor, causing damage there.
Electrical cabling, light fittings and the council’s expensively procured IT systems are all affected and subject to safety checks.
Emergency work began yesterday to mop up the mess, with staff being advised to consider alternative working arrangements for Monday, or until the situation is resolved.
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