Office heating under review

By John HowardA COUNCILLOR has been secretly taking the temperature in staff's offices at his district council to see if money can be saved by turning down the heating.

By John Howard

A COUNCILLOR has been secretly taking the temperature in staff's offices at his district council to see if money can be saved by turning down the heating.

Andrew Stringer, a Green mid Suffolk district councillor, has been around offices at the council which employs around 380 staff in Needham Market.

By taking his thermometer with him he has discovered that some offices are as hot as 24C and he thinks taxpayers money can be saved if the heating is reduced.

The council has been facing a dire financial situation after a worse than expected grant from central Government and has been looking at saving money - and increasing revenue. Ideas that have been under discussion include axing around 30 jobs, freezing councillor's allowances, increasing car parking charges, introducing new parking tariffs in communities for the first time, and increasing council tax significantly beyond the initial 3% rise the new Conservative administration had hoped for.

Mr Stringer believes his idea could help save a little more cash and would reduce the amount of fossil fuel the council uses to heat its offices.

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He said: "I went round the council looking at all the offices and found some anywhere up to 24C. Some were below 20C, which is good.

"I went round anonymously pretending I wanted a chat and as I walked out took each reading. The council needs to monitor what they do, this saves taxpayers money and helps the environment as we use oil. We need to be constantly looking, if we can be frugal at work, it all helps.

"Norwich's council has adopted a zero waste strategy, recycling everything. There is a minimum temperature for offices, I think about 18C, but no maximum. At some council meetings in the county I hear that people open the windows it is so hot.''

Mr Stringer also wants to see the council to look in to investing in porches at the main entrances, to stop the heat in the building escaping as the doors open.

A heating engineer has been called out to look at the council offices and a spokeswoman for the council said that with so much glass in the building, the temperature rises when the sun shines. But she said some officers have been so cold they have had to use portable heaters to boost the temperature.

In a statement the council said: "When the heating system at the Needham Market offices was designed in the early 70s, the acceptable ambient temperature for offices was 16 to 18 degrees. The system is very simple and it worked because people were comfortable at those levels.

"Over 30 years later, expectations and dress have changed, and now some people feel uncomfortably cool at the levels the heating system can provide. However, when they respond by using additional heat sources, thermostats close the system down, reducing its heat flow to everyone else.

"The result is that the building becomes very warm in isolated pockets, leaving cold areas that require even further independent heat sources to achieve a comfortable working temperature.

"Councillors have agreed a five-year programme to maximise energy efficiency. Beginning in 2005/06, a total design solution will improve insulation, create smaller, more flexible heat zoning, improve temperature levels without the need for secondary heat sources, and deliver economies.''

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