Monday, 16 June 2014

Brent Council to lease out two floors of Civic Centre as staff numbers reduce

Tonight's Cabinet will consider a proposal to lease out the 7th and 8th floor of the Civic Centre to an unnamed commercial organisation. LINK

This follows a review of the accomodation. The proposed 'Partner Village space' has attracted no partners who could afford it and parts of the first floor are empty. 

The proposals will see increased density of workstations on floors 2-6 with the Council anticipating some staff transferring out of the Centre when Veolia takes over the Public Realm contract and Wates takes over Brent Housing Partnership maintenance. 120 extra workstations will be added to floors 2-6.

The report also anticipates further Brent Council staffing cuts as out-sourcing continues and reductions in staff are made as a result of budgetary constraints. Revenue from the lease will be used to supplement the budget.

The report notes:

The security aspects of having a third party commercial occupier will need to be carefully considered. Therefore the Council should not and will not accept any tenant unless deemed acceptable to the image of the Council and the Civic Centre; the one under current consideration is well known to the Council and is reputable with an International standing. However in regard to security issues it should be noted that the Civic Centre already has other 3rd parties using the building: Capita, Serco, Metropolitan Police, Europa, Wates Living Space and Brent Housing Partnership. 

Along with contractual conditions and appropriate management controls it is envisaged that as part of a HR refresh about working in the Civic Centre staff can be reminded again about the need to ensure a clear desk policy is operated and that confidential discussions should take place only in appropriate settings. Therefore at this stage it is suggested that the current physical security arrangements remain in place.


  1. How about splitting the space between Starbucks, News International, De Beers and Nestle? Not only would they be acceptable to the current image of Brent Council, they would probably improve it.

  2. I can understand that the identity of the potential tenant may need to be treated as "commercial, in confidence", but there are many other details of, and supposed reasons behind, the letting of floors 7&8 (west) of the Civic Centre, which are not being disclosed, as referred to in para. 3.14:
    'The confidential Appendix sets out further commercial and other advantages to Brent.'

    Why is Andy Donald, Brent's Strategic Director for Regeneration and Growth, concealing these 'other advantages' from the general public? It appears from his report that he, or one of the Senior Officers in his department, has already had detailed discussions with a potential tenant and has agreed the terms of a deal with that potential tenant on a "without prejudice" and "subject to contract basis". As one of many items on the agenda for the new Cabinet's first meeting this evening, he is asking them to give him the go-ahead for his proposals, which they will have had little time to consider properly (if they have bothered to consider them at all).

    That might not be a great concern if Brent's Senior Officers could be trusted without question, but can they?

    In January 2012, Andy Donald put a report before the Executive proposing the redevelopment of Willesden Green Library Centre, and recommending that the detailed agreements were delegated to him.
    His report said that the plans which the proposed developer (identity concealed, in confidence) was putting forward were in line with consultations held the previous year, although those consultations specifically said that the Victorian library building must be retained as part of any redevelopment, while the developers plans (with Regeneration's agreement) were to demolish it.
    His report said that the developer would provide Brent with a new Cultural Centre on the existing site "for free", and that if the Executive gave the go ahead to his report, the new Centre would open in April 2014 (which members of the Executive would probably have noticed as being a month before the local elections - although after delays of eight months caused by objectors to the original planning application, the Centre is now scheduled to open in Summer 2015).
    One of the advantages of the redevelopment set out in the report was the provision of much-needed housing. Did Senior Officers of the Council know then that the developer would provide no affordable housing on the 72% of the site which Brent would give to the developer "for free" as part of the deal?

    If Brent's Cabinet approve the report before them this evening, we will eventually find out what "benefits" the letting will actually bring to the Council and local people. And if you had not already noticed, there is a Starbucks on the left as you go into the Civic Centre!

    Philip Grant

  3. Where to begin?

    * 'The security aspects of having a third party commercial occupier will need to be carefully considered'. Veolia could always be asked to pop over from its oxymoronic role of running Brent's 'Public Realm' contract - wonder what the Palestinians would make of that? The outfit could advise on building a wall to keep out the local undesirables.

    * Was it to enable Brent to go touting for commercial biz that the historic Mark Twain library - and five others - were closed? Today the search is on for a firm 'deemed acceptable to the image of the Council and the Civic Centre' - is that an admission that Veolia is acceptable? Tomorrow, it's the fate of the Mark Twain library... both meetings to be held in the currently 25% empty Civic Centre.

    * 'An HR refresh'? Leaving aside the unbearable management jargon, I believe I've read extensively recently about Brent HR...

  4. This is the link. make a comment saying 'that's hilarious, the whole point of the civic centre was to have all staff under 1 roof saving on having to pay for so many buildings, why not use the space for the Children & Families staff still using Challenge House in Harlesden and those based in Kilburn. Piss up, can't organise and Brewery comes to mind.

  5. 'A[n(sic)] HR refresh'...? Sounds like a Hooray, Henrietta bash. Oh, goody...

  6. I wonder if Met officers will pop in to tonight's planning committee hearing of the latest Kensal Rise Library application? They might be able to update committee members on the status of the investigation into the fraudulent email affair surrounding the developer's original plans. Many believe the application shouldn't be heard until the police have reported.

    You couldn't make it up - a library closed to help fund the Civic Centre which is 25% empty and growing more so and which now houses the Old Bill who're in the midst of an active investigation in to email fraud involving a previous application for the library by the same developer whose revised plan is being heard tonight...

    1. PS to 15.07 above: 'being heard tonight... in the Civic Centre, of course'. Full circle...

  7. The People of Brent are still paying for the Civic Centre to the tune of £4m per year over 25 years, plus annual interest, as part of the debt finance. With 24 years yet to run we have every right to know to whom office suites are being let out. We particularly need to know how these deals were sealed and whether anticipated prior to the opening of the Centre. Public money and risk went into the project.