A Norfolk council has spent more than £780,000 refurbishing a floor of its headquarters, including some £160,000 on furniture and partitions, in an effort to enable agile working.

Among other changes, officers at Breckland District Council (BDC) now enjoy the use of different zones, including a "quiet zone" and a "collaboration zone", giving them a choice of where to sit depending on their task.

Plans to overhaul the first floor of BDC headquarters Elizabeth House, built in 2003 in Dereham, were initially floated in 2019.

Costings obtained through a Freedom of Information request have revealed that £400,731 was spent earlier this year upgrading the office’s mechanical and electrical systems, including air conditioning, LED lighting, underfloor power supply and fire alarm adaptations and other works.

Meanwhile, £159,930 was spent on new furniture, including tables, chairs, desks, partitions, cupboards and lockers.

Another £54,144 was spent on floor finishings, and a further £54,034 on toilet, shower and kitchen fittings, including hydro-boil taps, which produce boiling water at the touch of a button.

Councillor Paul Hewett, BDC’s executive member for property and projects said the refurbishments “will help council staff to work in more efficient, modern ways and, ultimately, deliver enhanced services to our residents".

Thetford & Brandon Times: Breckland councillor Paul Hewett. Photo: Breckland CouncilBreckland councillor Paul Hewett. Photo: Breckland Council

He said the changes were delivered during the last lockdown, avoiding unnecessary disruption to services, and that the new office design is much more task-focused, with different areas supporting different kinds of work.

“For example, we have created a ‘quiet zone’ where staff can focus on complex casework or reports, while the ‘collaboration zone’ brings together colleagues from different teams to discuss new services or creatively challenge our existing processes so they can be refined and improved for our residents.

“In addition, we can now accommodate staff who used to work downstairs on our first floor. This releases much of our ground floor space, cutting our running costs while generating new rental income for the council, keeping budget pressures off our residents.

“As a council, we pride ourselves on being forward-thinking and always put our communities at the heart of what we do.

He added: “We are always mindful of using taxpayer’s money carefully – though this refurbishment work represents less than 1pc of the council’s annual budget – and we are confident that residents will reap the rewards of a greatly-modernised, more efficient council for years to come.”