Lewisham Council 4th in office refurbishment league [UPDATED]

Stung by criticism of their own office refurbishment costs at Broadcasting House, the BBC has compiled a list of local councils, ranking them by the amount they have spent on office refurbishments over the last three years. Lewisham is fourth in a list dominated by London Councils, having £2.38m since 2008.


We're not sure what, if anything, this tells us about the rigour of Lewisham's cost controls. That London Councils face higher office costs than other parts of the country is not news. Depending when you measure, different councils will be at different places in their office refurbishment cycles - Lewisham may be relatively high now, because it was relatively low in the previous three years.

Unless anyone tells us that the taps in Catford are solid gold and that Mayor Bullock has his own executive roof terrace, we can't see any scandal.

UPDATE:

The Council has provided us with the detail of their original FOI response to the BBC, which explains how the money was spent, noting that there has been no refurbishment since the 1960s when their office was built.

Project spend 2008-09
LTH - Fire safety works to the Ground floor £280,271.88
Town Hall Electrical System - Rewiring £579,186.45
Town Hall Boiler Renewal £693,538.63
Town Hall Roof Renewal £315,264.91

Project spend 2009-10
Town Hall Electrical System - Rewiring £63,336.75
Town Hall Boiler Renewal £2,511.71
Town Hall Roof Renewal £49,861.06

Project Spend 2010/11
LTH - Fire Safety works to the Ground floor £7,500.00
Town Hall Electrical System - Rewiring £15,592.93
Town Hall Boiler Renewal £16,166.59
Town Hall Roof Renewal £8,474.86

Move along people, nothing to see here.

61 comments:

Andrew Brown said...

I don't know what the case is here, but my experience of the council doing refurbs was it was to get rid of asbestos and the like, rather than plushing it up for either councillors or officers.

Anonymous said...

Unless we establish how many council financial directors wear hats then I don't know how we are to establish a pattern here.

drakefell debaser said...

I'm confused, last year the BBC ran a story about how Newham decided to splash out on fancy lights that cost £1800 each for their 'Building 1000' refurb. The total refurb cost was stated at over £100 million so how come in this article it states that Newham have confirmed they have done no refurbishments..?

December article here - http://ow.ly/3CtAH

DD said...

Correction, that figure of £100 million included the purchase of the building but £18.7 million was spent on the refurbishment.

fiona said...

I think your blog post is a brave one in that
there's usually too much irrational, knee jerk
criticism without even the merest hint of context
or clarification in this new age of austerity.

This is particularly true when it comes to the fashionably referred to 'gold plated' public sector. Yeah right! It's true, headline figures don't tell the whole story. But as a public servant who works in a building, often with my coat on at this time of year & no hot water, I'm pleased to see a bit of spend on the workplace.

Anonymous said...

Well it's a story of local interest so should be posted, don't think there's any judjement in the post other than to say the figures lack context.

Lou Baker said...

@Fiona

Public servants deserve decent working environments - so there is nothing wrong spending money on that - providing proper controls are in place and it's not excessive.

The real problems with the public sector are the proliferation of non-jobs, the ludicrously over generous pension schemes and other entitlements, the excessive bureaucratic controls and duplication, and how hard it is to fire someone who's not up to scratch. This where the money's wasted.

Tamsin said...

But there is unecessary spending. I'm just going on what someone has told me as I haven't been there recently but I gather part of the refurbishment of Laurence House is to carpet the concrete stairs - which are only ever used as a fire exit or by those popping up and down one floor or who want to avoid the lift. With the huge capital cost of heavy idustrial carpeting and then the ongoing revenue cost of increased cleaning charges.

The council are also about to expend significant sums on upgrading the kitchen at the Saville Centre. Maybe this is something that should be done and could generate revenue in the long term with hire charges etc. But no is not the time for such unecessary expenditure.

Off at a bit of a tangent but on Council spend generally - a letter in the Newsshopper last week highlights that cabinet members (with two new ones appointed last May) each receive £15000 a year (maybe the decimal point slipped - as I can't believe how it can be that much) "special responsibility allowance". Add in the extra staff that the Cabinet Members have running around to help them and it does look like quite a potential for saving if one cut out this tier of administration.

Like the ward assemblies and the Young Mayor - being nice to have as playing at democracy, but rather a waste of money when times are tough and services at risk.

max said...

There are cabinet members and cabinet members.
Surely an allowance for looking after schools is legitimate, one for "strategy and communication" is undefensible.

Anonymous said...

Well if they spent money in refurbishing the building I certainly did not notice last time I ventured down there.

So where did the money go?

Anonymous said...

Whats happened to the Councils own building department, electricians,plumbers etc.

Mb said...

Well no, a boiler roof and electrical upgrade would not be apparent to the casual visitor. That sound you can hear are knees jerking.

Mb said...

Maintenance departments are not geared up to perform projects work. It would almost certainly be more expensive. They would probably not have designers, not be geared up to produce build drawings or as built drawings. It's a quiet different function. Are you suggesting that the council keep a team of building services engineers on standby for 10 or 20 year upgrades? The private sector wouldn't do that.

max said...

So the BBC has done an awfully poor piece of research and then called the Taxpayers' Allience to comment on.
Who's wasting money now.

Tamsin said...

According to the letter in the Newshopper (and a Lib Dem Councillor's website) the £15K is on top of the £10K councillors get for being councillors (which is fair enough - it takes over a major part of your life and this works out at probably less than the minimum wage). An extra 150% seems less defensible.

This is all the Town Hall and agreed when you need a new roof you need a new roof. Where is the Laurence House refurbishment in the details given to the BBC.

Brockley Nick said...

They were asked about town halls. So they gave the figures for the town hall. As every other council will have done.

Tamsin said...

Hmm. In Catford there is the Town Hall, the Civic Suite and Laurence House all as separate entities. But on the other hand the figure for fire safety works is such that it must relate to more than just the Town Hall bit of the complex so I should probably assume that the description covers it all and shut up. Tried googling for more information but just got mired in rather old spread-sheets - or told that the cost of relocating CEL to Laurence House was about £6,0000.

Anonymous said...

Public servants I know get a full year maternity pay. You would be lucky to get that in the private sector.

question said...

So is maternity leave a bad thing now?

Mb said...

Some private IT specialists I know have received bonuses of tens of thousands, you'd be lucky to get that in the public sector. You see what I did there?

Random anecdotes do not inform the debate.

Anonymous said...

The point being that the year off work is paid by the tax payer. Coucils are being asked to look at efficiencies maybe they can look at the private sector for some learnings, that's if the unions don't have a big fit.

Yes some IT people (place bankers if you want) make lots of money, I am guessing the bonus is taxed.

Mb said...

So a years maternity with full pay is usual in the public sector? Or just a random anecdote? People work for a package. Base salary, bonus, pension, leave entitlement etc.... Picking a single item from a particular position in the public sector tells us nothing. Either does my comment about a particular private sector job paying a large bonus. It's just pub talk.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm sure the cabinet member for "strategy and communication" has been very busy posting christmas cards for the mayor.

He also came up with the original idea of reducing the number of issues of Lewisham Life.

Anonymous said...

Maternity leave is essentially money for nothing, so yes it is a bad thing.

max said...

Money for nothing!
Just hope your mum doesn't hear you or you get one big smack on the bottom Tory Boy.

Tamsin said...

Clarification of my 18.46 post - it was the comma that was correct, not the number of noughts - £6K for relocating CEL - not too unreasonable on the face of it.

max said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeLSNzEorbI

George osborne said...

....as is paid leave, you may be on to something!

Anonymous said...

Are the Council revising their plans regarding Lewisham Town Centre/Gateway?

There are hints of a change in a report to the Mayor?

Going down Molesworth Street and seeing the Church behind a grassy knoll is very pretty. Someone should get it on camera before it goes.

max said...

Don't worry, the report says that the grassy knoll is there to stay for a while longer.

THNick said...

Anon re maternity pay - you need to add some more details. Everyone has a right to 9 months maternity pay, are you saying that some public sector employees get a further 3 months?

And it may be money for nothing, but it allows employers to keep experienced staff after they have kids. Which is economically better than having to hire new people.

Anonymous said...

Anon Re Maternity Pay:
1. Maternity pay is not full salary - it's a complicated calculation, something like 9/10 pay for 6 weeks then some other adjustment for the remaining 20 wks.
2. The additional 26 weeks that you get in the public sector are also not at full pay and are condtional (I think) on the mother returning to work for at least 3 months.
3. 'paid for by the taxpayer' - people who work for the public sector, they pay tax too you know... Education and the NHS are also paid for by the taxpayer, I don't have children and rarely visit the dr, should i get a rebate?

Anonymous said...

"And it may be money for nothing, but it allows employers to keep experienced staff after they have kids. Which is economically better than having to hire new people."

Having worked in companies where maternity leavers conveniently decide to hand in their notice once all the statutory has been used up more often than not, I don't see how this is economically better at all. The staff just don't get retained, they just get a nice big paid holiday whilst everyone else who stays on to actually work for their salary makes up the shortfall.

Brockley Nick said...

I suppose redundancy payments are money for nothing too.

If I never get made redundant, I could choose to get cross about those people who get a big payoff and then quickly get another job, or I could consider it a good thing that that protection was there for me, even if I never needed it.

Anonymous said...

The big difference being that people tend not to bring redundancy upon themselves of course.

Welcome to 2011 said...

Sometimes. I've seen lots of people bring redudancy on themselves by being crap at their jobs. I'd rather money go to help support kids than support lazy and inept people.

Coney said...

We are human beings before we are workers. Reproducing is part of the life cycle for many human beings.

Anonymous said...

"3. 'paid for by the taxpayer' - people who work for the public sector, they pay tax too you know... Education and the NHS are also paid for by the taxpayer, I don't have children and rarely visit the dr, should i get a rebate?"

Yes, private and public sector people pay tax. I am suggesting that with the period of austerity, that sectors learn from each other and realign. I would think reviewing the public sector maternity calculations would be a good thing alongside other cost cutting exercises. You would want to try to safeguard people in jobs right, prior people loosing benefits?

The maternity was just a particular view point.

max said...

Planners normally avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Anonymous said...

Odd isn't it. Learn from the private sector, how much would a cheif executive of an organisation that handles tens of millions and employs thousands earn in the private sector? would that be more or less, on average, than the Public Sector?

It's really quiet brilliant how the public sector being hit is being held up as the the solution to the deficit.

max said...

Anonymous, you really have no idea how silly you sound.

My school of thought is that ideally when a woman has children she should take a lot of time off to look after it, it's really better for the child and then later in life for the society that child belongs to.

A maternity payment is not just a payment for a period off work, is a payment in support of a member of society that faces to a duty that is in fact a very heavy job.

If a woman remains without the means to support herself the child suffers and then social services have to intervene, which is not just a tragedy, but also an expensive one.

Danja said...

Maybe Ford would be a good private sector model?

http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/news/1039830/Top-Employers-Working-Families-Ford-Britain/

Trixie said...

'I am suggesting that with the period of austerity, that sectors learn from each other and realign'
I agree! so... that should mean that bankers won't be getting massive bonuses then?

Anonymous said...

I am suggesting that with the period of austerity, that sectors learn from each other and realign'
I agree! so... that should mean that bankers won't be getting massive bonuses then?

As mush as the size of some of the bankers bonuses are IMO obscene That's the price to pay to keep the the financial services industry competitive with other markets. Do you want to lose this industry in the UK?

Are bonuses not taxed? Would you prefer less tax revenue coming into the coffers?

max said...

Please notice that there is no connection between what bankers pay themselves and maternity leave payments.

That aside, if bonuses were smaller more money would either end up as dividends, which are also taxed, or as investments, which would in turn generate wealth that means more taxation again.
One way or the other this argument is irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree to the point made above.

Danja said...

The dividends and investments may not be taxable/made in the UK, though.

Anonymous said...

Do you think that public sector organisations will retain or attract talent with a two year pay freeze? Pay, pensions, leave, maternity provision... it all adds up to a package. Public sector pay is, in general, lower. The other perks make up for it, it's not a difficult concept.

max said...

Danja, you're right, are we supposed to support increased bankers' bonuses?

Anonymous said...

"Do you think that public sector organisations will retain or attract talent with a two year pay freeze? Pay, pensions, leave, maternity provision... it all adds up to a package. Public sector pay is, in general, lower. The other perks make up for it, it's not a difficult concept."

That would depend where you get your figures from? Just googling "Private Public Sector Gap" will give you a mixed response depending what newspaper / journo has written the article. I don't think there is a massive gap as it used to be in terms of salaries.

Danja said...

Different question, Max, and one as to which I am more than a bit ambivalent.

Ensuring that London remains pre-eminent in financial services is massively important to our economy, local and national. Tempting as it may be to take revenge, it wouldn't be a very smart move in the longer term.

There are many more important regulatory and structural issues around than bonus sizes. The difficulty with all of them is that it needs co-ordinated international agreement, or the banks will just escape using regulatory arbitrage. And the international will is dissolving somewhat as the crisis fades.

So it may be something unpleasant which we need to suck up a bit.

Even in the largely nationalised banks, we need them to be able to compete and succeed so that we can turn them around and sell them off again, hopefully for a profit to the taxpayer. Ensuring that they can only hire or retain the least sucessful bankers is hardly going to assist that

Anonymous said...

"Do you think that public sector organisations will retain or attract talent with a two year pay freeze? Pay, pensions, leave, maternity provision... it all adds up to a package. Public sector pay is, in general, lower. The other perks make up for it, it's not a difficult concept."

Provide me with a reference to substantiate the above claim? I can only find mixed results on who is paid better. Tbh I don't think there is a great salary gap between both on average.

Anonymous said...

No, exactly. focusing on pay or bonuses or other bennefits between the two worlds tells us nothing. It makes an outraged headline, that's all.

Tamsin said...

I agree with Danja. Disquieting though it is the financial services sector is in a way another country - and if we want to keep these people here spending their (ill-deserved if not ill-gotten) gains on restaurants, personal trainers, schools, gym subscriptions, house extensions, etc. etc. and so benefitting everyone we have to accept them with all their faults. A friend a good few years back lost his job in the City and had to sign on the dole. One of the questions asked was where he would be willing to work - the expected answer being some limiting post-codes, like only within a short bus ride or not outside south east London. The system could not cope with his reply which was Frankfurt, Tokyo etc, anywhere with a trading floor...

It is very morally ambiguous though - like MPS voting through a pay rise for themselves - directors deciding on their own bonuses.

banker 79 said...

and if we want to keep these people here spending their (ill-deserved if not ill-gotten) gains

Please do feel free to generalise...again.

Danja said...

Quite true - some of them are ill-gotten (stand up Fab Fab).

Anonymous said...

Bringing this thread back on topic....isn't the council proposing to build a new town hall and demolish Laurence House, thus saving refurb?

By the way interesting timelines given in a report to the Mayor about possible Travellers sites.

Re: The grassy knolls the revised local development plans for the centre of Lewisham hint at change of circumstances...is this preparing the way for a significant announcement?

Why would planners talk as if they weren't aware of major projects such as Loampit Vale, Thurston Road, Connington Road in 2007?

Also why the need to reappraise climate and flood risk?

Office refurbishment said...

Not sure about the asbestos issue, it could be that they want to refurbish the office just because it is about time to do it..

Office Design said...

Agree with Danja and Max, the questioning whether 'we' are supposed to pay the bankers bonuses is again a very valid one..

Office Design said...

Agree with Danja and Max, the questioning whether 'we' are supposed to pay the bankers bonuses is again a very valid one..

Office Refurbishment said...

Would be nice to know what exactly happened concerning this issue. Does anyone have any updates or latest news?

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