Appeals for Horsham District Council to reopen office to public
Several councillors have called on Horsham District Council to reopen its office to the public.
Parkside, which is shared with West Sussex County Council, closed during lockdown and, while it is used by some staff and for meetings, its doors remain shut to passers-by.
During a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (September 1), Liz Kitchen (Con, Colgate & Rusper), Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury & West Grinstead) and Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough, Coldwaltham & Amberley) all made it clear that they felt that needed to change.
Mrs Kitchen said: “We are meant to be serving the public and at the moment it’s very difficult for any members of the public to get into the building.”
Mr Donnelly called the continued closure ‘very concerning’ and added: “I really do think the sooner we get back to normality the better.
“I think we’ve really got to set an example and get staff back in as soon as possible – unless there’s a very clear medical reason why we should not.”
Glen Chipp, the council’s chief executive officer, assured the meeting that all services were still being provided ‘through alternative means’.
But he pointed out that opening the Parkside reception for just the district council was not ‘economically viable’.
He added: “At the moment, the county council is not minded to open the building so we will have to work in conjunction with them.”
As with many businesses and organisations, the idea of staff working from home was already being explored by the council before the pandemic.
Mr Chipp said it was felt that remote working was ‘efficient’ and he didn’t think staff would be returning to a pre-lockdown way of doing things.
He added: “I think we need to use this opportunity to look at the cultural changes this has brought about and I think there are some benefits from that.
“I’m not saying we won’t have more staff back in the office regularly – if you walked round the office today you would see an awful lot of the desks are occupied.
“But I don’t think we’ll be going back to the situation pre the Covid pandemic.”
Mr Chowen said he found Mr Chipp’s response ‘quite disappointing’.
He said: “We’re not a business. If a business only wants 50 per cent of its employees back to work it’s a decision for a business.
“But we’re a public body and we are a local public body. We should be getting back to normal so we can serve the people.”
The county council has been approached for comment.