Speaking at Tuesday’s council meeting, Liberal MP Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the city center offices were “no longer fit for purpose” and that refusing the move would also mean the council would miss its net-zero emissions target until 2030.

“It’s a black glass building with windows that can’t be opened and no air conditioning,” he said. “It’s an unpleasant place to work and … if we stay we won’t reach our zero carbon target.

“We need to get out. We need a much smaller space. It needs to be in the city center because we need to support the shops, but we need to start doing some work on getting out of the civic area as soon as possible.

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Guildhall Square Public Offices Photo: Keith Woodland (090319-36)

“We need to grasp the nettle and say that the civic offices as they are now, with all the things we’ve learned during Covid, don’t work for the city council.”

His comments came in an amendment to a motion tabled by Conservative councilor Ryan Brent, which raised concerns that working from home means the building no longer provides value for money.

Cllr Brent said the number of council staff based there was five to ten times less than before the pandemic and the cost of the building per on-site staff member had risen from £700-£800 to £8,000.

“Capacity is going down, but now we’re also spending more on cleaning and … we’re also spending more money on rubbish collection and disposal,” he said, adding that gas and electricity bills had also risen by £250,000 a year .

“We’re spending more, we’re generating less and we’re having fewer services,” he added. “I don’t think it’s an acceptable situation.”

His motion, which calls for a report on future options for the site and a full financial review, combined with the addition of Cllr Vernon-Jackson’s amendment, was seconded by councillors.

Member of the Liberal Democrat cabinet Steve Peet said he “hated” the building with “every fiber of his being” and that it was “ruining downtown.”

He said work on his exit was discussed more than a decade ago and that now “grown-up conversations” need to be had about his future.

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