Leeds council had to spend £900,000 on work-from-home equipment for its staff, document reveals

Leeds City Council has spent almost £900,000 in the past year on equipping employees to work from home due to the Covid 19 pandemic, a document has revealed.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 9:44 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 9:46 am

An investigation is set to finish next year into ongoing work by the authority to sell off a number of its office buildings and instead to equip large parts of its workforce to work from home instead.

A document updating councillors on the authority’s “agile working” and “estate rationalisation” work is set to go before members of the council’s Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee next week.

It claims most staff surveyed were happy with the support they were receiving from the authority, and that the inquiry should be completed next year.

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£900,000 was spent equipping council employees to work from home. (Pic: Adobestock)

The investigation was started as some members had been concerned at the effects working from home could have on the productivity and wellbeing of council employees.

The report stated: “Covid-19 has, of course, been extremely challenging and the term ‘unprecedented’ is not out of place when considering the impact both on people’s lives in the city but also in terms of how the council reacts and restructures in its response to it.

“There are very few positives to be derived from living through such a tragic pandemic, however what it has served to highlight is the potential for greater organisational change based around a more flexible model of working for staff that takes greater account of work life balance and mental health and well-being whilst also maintaining a strong focus on effective service delivery.”

It added that the council had spent £895,000 on 8,472 new pieces of equipment since the beginning of the pandemic to allow people to work from home – more than half a million pounds over what the council would normally expect to spend on such measures. The extra money spent helping people work from home, officers said, should be balanced against the extra money made from the sales of council buildings.

A survey which took place in October was said to show half of the staff “remain happy”, while 74 per cent were positive about the support they received from the authority.

The report added: “(This) serves to highlight that the majority of staff have adjusted to home working and are able to perform their roles effectively in a remote setting however, this does not reflect the views of all staff.

“This work will continue into 2021/22 with a commitment to finalise the inquiry in the next municipal year. It is also hoped that this additional time will allow the agenda to develop more and for the Council to begin to develop concrete principles as to how the workforce will be aligned in the future and have more certainty on that important balance between home and office working.

“It is therefore planned to consider further results from staff consultation and engagement at the June meeting and then begin to look at making initial inquiry recommendations based on those findings and a closer look at the principles the council has established in terms of how new ways of working will develop through 2021/22.”

Members of the scrutiny board will meet on Monday, March 22 to discuss the paper.