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31-05-2010

Alpha Tower

Budget constraints have seen staff at Birmingham Council’s planning and regeneration department switch from Alpha Tower in the city centre to Lancaster Circus on the edge of town. One worker – let’s call her Molly Malone – is strugglomg to adapt to her new surroundings.

For years Birmingham City Council’s Planning and Regeneration engine room has been ensconsed in its very own Ivory (Alpha ) Tower. However in a cost cutting exercise almost every BCC man (and woman), Jack(and Jill) are being moved out to Lancaster Circus.

It’s financially laudible in that Alpha Tower was rented at a premium rate whilst Lancaster Circus is owned by BCC – certainly an example to the Civil Service, with the likes of the Highways Agency swanning it in the Cube and the Gov’t Office lording it in St Phillips Place.

Unfortunately Lancaster Circus has never had a particularly good reputation with its general drabness and the atmosphere the antithesis to Feng Shui after years of being stuffed to the rafters with Highways engineers – whose sole purpose in life is to stop things happening and move at the sort of pace that would make the average snail look like Usain Bolt.

Perhaps mindful of this, BCC have embarked on the sort of makeover that Changing Rooms can only dream about.

However there are already the rumblings of discontent with the flagship reception area still not due to open for a month so that staff have to embark on a journey that would make the Crystal Maze look like the proverbial walk in the park.

Once in the new offices, the set up is obviously aimed at hot desking i.e. the personal space has the sort of dimensions that you couldn’t swing a cat without somebody calling in the RSPCA.

In fairness ,the work areas are bright and airy but have about as much soul as David Cameron.

Additionally there are ‘break out’ areas and no doubt those left standing, following the recent staffing cull, would like to do just that. Most spaces are given relaxing (?) names, including the bizarrely named ‘Village Green’ - in a building where no greenery is allowed!

The tea point has more types of recycling bins than a typical Greenpeace HQ and one can wile away many happy hours deciding on the most suitable receptacle. The area for tea making is extremely narrow to obviously discourage loitering but despite this it gets more congested than the London Underground in the rush hour.

The good news for staff is that the toilets would make those at South Birmingham College look like an outdoor privy.

Back in the main part of the office, there is, of course, a clear desk policy which means that it looks like an Ikea showroom with the desks lined up like the control centre of the Starship ‘Enterprise’.

Call me old fashioned but give me half a dozen giant paperclips, a working stapler, a biro, some sheets of A4 and a litterbin and administratively speaking I can outrun the nerdiest of computer nerds.

Never mind…welcome to the future!

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