Council Decision Making: Plan for Change

February 28, 2021 9:52 AM
By Dale Roberts

Dale RobertsDale Roberts, Lib Dem candidate for St Johns, calls for council decisions to be based on the dramatically changing needs of Woking constituents

Increasingly we have to think about what our communities are going to look like post Covid and one thing is for certain, we are going to see change and some of it dramatic. For example, many businesses have already adopted a policy of 'remote-first'. Some industry commentators are predicting that this could mean the end of traditional corporate Headquarters by 2030 and whilst this seems unlikely the demand for commercial office space is going to reduce, perhaps severely, over the coming years.

The benefits to businesses are many. It can cost £10,000 a year to keep an individual in office space in a central London location and businesses that require specialised skills need no longer limit themselves to a 30-mile radius for the talent they require. I have, for many years, lead teams across Europe and I rarely made hiring decisions based on proximity. Covid has fast-forwarded attitudes by ten years and made this the norm, not the exception.

Big City horizon in Woking

Downtown London viewed from Woking

There are some challenges for remote workers, but on balance, individuals have also made their decision on where they want to work. Most are no longer willing to commute 3 hours a day to spend 8 hours in an office. Those that can, will spend upwards of 60% of their time working from home with some preferring to not go into an office at all. I have had a number of friends take on new jobs during the pandemic who are now in the extraordinary situation of having never physically met their employer.

As a Lib Dem candidate for May 2021, I will be challenging conventional wisdom on all decisions that we make locally about commercial property and housing. What we know about the last decade no longer informs us about what we should be doing about the next one. And, of course, it's not just housing needs that could change dramatically. Those working from home in Woking will have different needs in terms of how they spend their leisure time and how they take care of their health and wellbeing. Many, now spending more time locally, may also want to consider volunteering to support their community as I have seen organising one of the local mutual aid groups.

Councils will face many challenges as they recover from the pandemic. Some of them unprecedented, some of them familiar but every decision should be viewed through the lens of the future rather than the past needs of Woking citizens.

Time for change.

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  • Vote Dale Roberts on 6th May 2021.