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Council leader questioned over financial viability of headquarters in COVID-19 era

Slough Borough Council reinstates parking enforcement

The council leader has faced questions over the financial viability of the multi-million pound Observatory House in the COVID-19 era.

Slough Borough Council moved into its new town centre headquarters last year after spending £39million, plus stamp duty of £1,939,500 and a purchaser’s fee of £391,000.

But changes to working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic has seen the Windsor Road building occupied by just 10 to 15 per cent of the council’s staff in recent weeks.

Council leader James Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green) was asked at a virtual full council meeting last night if residents could face tax bill increases to cover the ongoing costs of the offices.

Meena Sharma, who stood for the Slough Conservatives at the last local elections, said: “What assurances can be given to Slough council’s taxpayers that they will not have to foot the bill, in increased council tax, to pay ongoing costs of the £41,333,500 white elephant SBC new offices, which is likely to be grossly under-occupied due to plans for long-term homeworking.”

The council leader replied: “I can offer 100 per cent assurance that taxpayers won’t see any additional impact or changes to the occupancy of the building.”

He told the meeting the council expected to generate more than £1million a year in rental income from new tenants including staff from the council’s regeneration partner, Slough Urban Renewal.

A skills and innovation hub is also planned for the fifth floor.

The Labour leader said the building is now valued at £52million and is expected to be cost-neutral by 2021/22.

Councillor Swindlehurst added: “In terms of rental income, increased value and return on our investment, before we even talk about the wider housing benefits being created from our residents when we vacate St Martin’s Place, all these show that we have been and continue to make a wise investment in 25 Windsor Road.”

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