BOSSES planning to rent out a floor at a new multi-million council HQ for £300,000 a year have found that nobody wants to move in.

The £48m Tameside One building in the heart of Ashton was completed in March 2019, despite the collapse of Carillion which had thrown the scheme into jeopardy.

The building, which covers 160,000 sq ft over two "arms", houses Tameside college in an "advanced skills centre" one side, and the council headquarters, library, and public service desks in the other.

Bosses had aimed to reduce the amount of space in the borough occupied by authority staff by around half, and incorporate energy-saving measures to save £1.5m a year.

However new issues, including the ongoing impact of the pandemic have resulted in a string of problems for the state-of-the-art public building.

Government advice to "work from home if possible" during the three lockdowns and beyond has meant that hundreds of council staff have not yet returned to office working.

Council meetings, which had also been held in the new building, moved to virtual video calls following the onset of coronavirus.

But since returning to hybrid online and in person meetings they have instead resumed in Dukinfield Town Hall and Guardsman Tony Downes House in Droylsden.

Together this has meant areas of the authority headquarters have been unoccupied for the best part of 18 months.

A meeting of the council’s strategic commissioning board heard that there had been a plan to lease out one of the office floors in Tameside One.

Tameside One, the new council headquarters in Ashton

Tameside One, the new council headquarters in Ashton

This was planned to have brought in £300,000 for the year 2021/22, as part of nearly a million pounds of savings in the growth department. 

However reports state that the savings related to the lease "will not be achieved".

A rent review of property across the council’s estate, worth £500,000, which was also a target for savings this year will also not be realised.

Councillor Ged Cooney, cabinet member for employment, housing and planning said: “We’ve got the lease out of Tameside One office floor, £300,000 and that’s not going to happen, I accept it’s not anyone’s fault that it’s not going to happen.

“Covid has meant there are not many people going into many buildings.

“But that’s £300,000 ‘not expected’. And also there’s a rent review which is also going to be a struggle, we had aspirations we would do these and clearly that’s not going to happen.

“That’s £800,000 not going to happen that we budgeted for, how are we covering that?”

Director of finance Kathy Roe explained they were the plans drawn up at the beginning of the financial year, and they hadn’t stopped searching for ways to save cash.

“We have got some savings schemes that haven’t materialised or are struggling to move in the intended direction that we initially set out with,” she added. 

“We are working with all of those teams to identify and mitigate opportunities for other saving schemes, we never stop looking for savings opportunities whichever way they come through.

“We’re working with the director of place and his team to identify what those opportunities are to mitigate that pressure.

“We have identified bits of things already, we’re also picking it up as part of budget setting to make sure that where we can stretch that and find other ways to fill those gaps in, we absolutely will do because the understanding is we have to find that money one way or another, we can’t afford to not find £800,000 in the current budget and beyond.

“We need to find long term options and solutions for those areas that are no longer not going to deliver, for some reasons that are not within all of our control.”

Alongside working from home policies, pandemic social distancing measures also led to a consultation being launched in the summer over proposals to close the drop in customer services centre in Tameside One for good.

The Tameside One building in Ashton

The Tameside One building in Ashton

They would instead move to a "digital first" approach, with payments and requests that couldn’t be dealt with by email, webchat or over the phone, instead handled at the borough’s eight libraries.

However just two years after it first opened its doors, the new Ashton Library closed on November 6 for around three months for fire protection works.

Insurers suggested the works would ‘reduce risk and insurance premiums’ for the building at Tameside One.

It comes following changes in the fire insurance market in light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Additional fire detection equipment is also being installed in voids between floors at the Tameside One site.

The cost of the works or the whole building is budgeted at £1.25m, which is being funded from the town hall’s insurance reserve.

Chiefs said that absence of fire detection in voids is "not against British fire safety standards" but the work is required by their insurers to "reduce risk and reduce insurance premiums for the building".

A limited library service is being offered at level one in the Tameside One building from November 22, Monday to Friday.

A spokesperson for Tameside council said: “While rates have remained relatively high in Tameside, and given the high levels of workers across the country having to isolate, we have continued to adopt a cautious approach and asked that remaining council staff who can work from home continue to do so in the interest of their health and safety and to best maintain the continuity of our services.

“The offices in the Tameside One building have been open to all staff who cannot work from home or need work space to undertake specific activities and functions.

“We have a planned, phased approach to bringing staff back into the building with Covid measures in place and more staff have been working from Tameside One on a hybrid basis as part of this plan, which we’re reviewing and learning from on an ongoing basis.

“We are also taking the opportunity to carry out building works on the voids between floors in the building to install additional fire detection equipment. We have chosen to do the works in order to reduce insurance premiums and enhance fire safety.

“The building has always been safe and compliant but, like any insurable risk, it makes sense – from both a risk and economic point of view – to further explore what else can be done and a range of additional, enhanced fire detection/protection measures will go in. Ashton Library will be temporarily closed from 3pm on Saturday, November 6, for approximately 12 weeks while this work takes place.”