Shropshire Council rejects criticism over state of Shirehall

Shropshire Council has rejected criticism of its handling over maintenance for Shirehall.

Shropshire Council chief executive Andy Begley
Shropshire Council chief executive Andy Begley

The authority's staff have not been using the top three floors of the building at Abbey Foregate in Shrewsbury since the start of the pandemic.

It has recently confirmed that its current fire risk assessment does not allow staff to use the top three floors – but the authority's Chief Executive, Andy Begley, says that the decision not to use the space was taken because the council no longer needs it, and not because it is a fire risk.

Fire safety work required to improve the rest of the building has also now started, after being delayed earlier this year.

The comments from Mr Begley come after Liberal Democrat Councillor Roger Evans questioned how the building had been allowed to get into a state where the top three floors were no longer being used.

He had said: "That they have allowed a building to fall into a state of disrepair that could leave staff at risk and leaves the fire service to say you have to vacate the top three floors – I am amazed."

Responding Mr Begley, said: "It’s important to stress that the decision to take the upper floors of Shirehall out of use was not taken by – or insisted upon – by the Fire and Rescue Service.

"The top three floors haven’t been needed since staff began working from home in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

"And with staff set to continue working at home in the future these floors are no longer needed for office space – hence they are being used just for storage, and therefore the extent of the required fire safety improvement works are limited to the lower floors."

He added: “We do not agree with the suggestion that councillors have ‘allowed a building to fall into disrepair that could leave staff at risk’.

"The council has undertaken a phased improvement programme over recent years, including significant investment in a new fire detection system which has been installed throughout the building.

“To reflect the council’s new ways of working, bookable desks and meeting rooms are available for staff and councillors to use on the ground, first and second floor of Shirehall, allowing the opportunity for staff to drop in to use office space as and when required.

“It’s important to note that numbers of staff and councillors able to visit and work at Shirehall are currently still limited due to the continuation of social distancing and other health and safety restrictions.

“And as we’ve already stated, the fire safety work was due to take place earlier this year but was delayed due to the appointed contractor withdrawing from the project.”

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