Mediator called in as Babergh Council move stalls

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich

The relocation of two district councils to new headquarters in Ipswich will not be completed for at least two months, according to council bosses.

Bosses at Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils, which share some personnel and back office resources, had hoped the move to a joint headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich – currently home to Suffolk County council – would be completed this month.

But a dispute over parking arrangements has meant all staff at both councils, including the chief executive, Arthur Charvonia (pictured), have had to be made redundant under a collective bargaining agreement with unions.

Staff are currently working out their notice period while the councils and unions draw up new terms over parking, with workplace conciliation service, Acas, called in to mediate.

“Because we were unable to reach an agreement with unions around the changes relating to car parking, we then had to technically make all staff redundant from their current contracts,” said a spokesman for the councils.

“We then had to offer them a new contract, with updated terms and conditions, which is currently in negotiation, and what is known as suitable alternative employment.

“Those members of staff who wish to work at Endeavour House in this time may do so and all remaining staff will move, at some point, after the current notice period for the existing contracts ends on December 5.”

Council staff currently have free parking at their offices in Needham Market and Hadleigh

Following the move, they will either have to use available parking spaces, public spaces or park and ride, which Unison, the workers’ union, claims will be impractical.

Staff were being offered £300 over three years to cover parking as well as free park and ride passes, while being encouraged to make use of technology to work remotely, at ‘touchdown’ points, or face to face with residents and customers.

Unison members rejected the parking arrangements by 78.5 per cent with a 69 per cent turn out.

An initial meeting between the councils, Unison and Acas took place on Thursday.

A spokesman for Unison said: “Our members are waiting to hear of new proposals from the councils and would prefer not to comment further at this stage.”

Cllr Penny Otten, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “I feel both sorry and concerned for staff and I hope that any negotiations will also offer clarification of the total costs of the move and of maintaining the two council headquarters which will be vacated.”