Agenda item

Questions from Councillors

To hear questions (if any) from councillors of which due notice has been given.


Councillor Richard Mills asked the Lead Councillor for Environment and Climate Change, Councillor George Potter, the following question:

“The Risk Register at the meeting of the Guildford and Waverley Joint Governance Committee on 24th January 2024, Risk 7, page 30, accepted at that meeting, indicates that encouraging ‘working from home as much as possible’ is a current mitigation measure against the perceived risk that the objective of delivering net zero carbon by 2030, might not be achieved.

Will the Executive Portfolio Holder for Environment and Climate Change advise:

(a)    how far this policy is currently being pursued?

(b)    how the level of home working by Council staff has changed over the period since the end of lockdown?

(c)     what contribution the policy has made, or is expected to make, to the reduction of carbon emissions in the Borough?, and

(d)    what assessment has been made of the costs and benefits of this policy including staff productivity and service delivery?” 

The Lead Councillor’s response was as follows:

“At the present time, GBC staff are allocated as either fixed or agile workers.  Staff who have been identified as agile workers are expected to spend at least 50% of their time in the office. 


However, that policy is currently being reviewed and the Council is looking at a number of data sources including: the approach being taken by other authorities in the region; the self-reported impact of agile working on staff health and wellbeing; and the feedback from team managers on the impact of agile working on their service delivery.   

In terms of the latter, the initial review of data suggests that the Council’s agile working approach has had a positive impact on recruitment, retention and, in some if not all cases, team performance.  However, it is clear that it can also have a less positive impact on team cohesion if not managed carefully.  

The future policy will need to respond to these concerns about team cohesion through planned, managed and structured team contact whilst also maximising the positive benefits of agile working in terms of recruitment, retention and minimising carbon emissions.  The Council will consult and engage with the staff and union representatives before making any changes to the current approach.  It will also consider the implications of any new policy before adopting it, including the implications on climate change.     

Bearing all of this in mind, the current description of staff being encouraged to ‘work at home as much as possible’ is not correct in terms of the current policy and is unlikely to be correct in terms of any future policy and so I have asked officers to recommend changes to that wording that can be considered by the Joint Governance Committee in due course”.

As a supplementary question, Councillor Mills asked the Lead Councillor whether he would agree that there was widespread recognition that the continuing scale of emissions from Spectrum which meant that the chances of achieving the net zero objective were now very slight and, if that was the case, the Council would need to consider three options:

·      To close Spectrum.

·      To continue to pursue the net zero objective, recognising that the prospect of successfully achieving that objective with the main mitigation measure was very slight.

·      To accept that the objective was now unrealistic and should not be pursued further.

In response, the Lead Councillor indicated that as this raised issues that involved other portfolios (including Leisure), he was therefore unable to provide a detailed answer, not least because work was still continuing to address and develop a plan for how the Council was going to deal with the Spectrum and its carbon emissions over the period leading up to 2030.  The Lead Councillor agreed, however, that if the risk register stated that working from home was one of the mitigation measures against the impact of carbon emissions caused by Spectrum, it would seem to be  unrealistic and suggested that this matter should be raised again when the risk register was updated.