A decision by Herefordshire Council to spend nearly £100,000 on new meeting room furniture at its main Plough Lane building has been defended.

Coun Gemma Davies, Cabinet member for commissioning, procurement and assets, said in the Herefordshire politics and local democracy Facebook group that the expenditure is “all to do with the move to hybrid working”.

“The original budget was about five times that but we reviewed it during Covid and said we’ll make use of the equipment that still works i.e. desks etc.

“But some of the new rooms need tech and some new furniture for privacy etc.”

Asked why this still requires more technology and furniture, she said the council has been “way behind” other authorities, explaining: “When the council came back to having live meetings and we had to do the hybrid meetings, you could see that we just weren’t set up for that.”


The move will enable the larger Plough Lane rooms “to become multipurpose spaces”, though the council “will retain all good quality furniture and distribute this to the smaller rooms wherever it is needed”, its decision said.

The expenditure is “part of the project which is reviewing the way the Plough Lane building will be used and how staff will want to use the building in future”, and “will allow Herefordshire Council to respond to changing work practices and the use of office space post-Covid”, it added.

It awarded the contract to provide meeting room furniture worth £96,874.68 to Portsdown Office Ltd of Portsmouth.

The tender for the job was held in March 2021, but the office revamp “was then paused due to changes in organisation structure” following the change in senior council management at the time.

“Industry-wide price increases has meant that the supplier is no longer able to honour the original prices,” the council said, but maintained that the award to Portsdown still “ensures Herefordshire Council is getting best value and using a compliant procurement method”.

It said retaining the existing arrangement “has been considered, however it is felt that it is no longer fit for purpose in all the meeting rooms”.

A council spokesperson said: “We are remodelling the Plough Lane office to provide space for as many staff as possible who need to be on-site, along with different uses for the space as we assess business needs.

“We will provide modern office space in line with health and safety standards and the refurbishment will allow over 1,300 staff to work in a hybrid way, to provide a modern, professional working environment, reduce the number of cars on our roads and help staff work in a way that suits them.”

Coun Davies also said the council’s current use of physical space over “such a large footprint” was “insane”, adding: “We need to get our estate down so that we can make those we do use energy-efficient and find either community or commercial uses for the rest.”

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