Wednesday, 26 June 2019
Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Slough Council is moving

Welcome to £40+ million St James' Palace

Reporter: Paul Janik
Council boss splashes-out on luxury offices
twice the size of corporate headquarters

Welcome to St James Palace, Slough Council's new £40+ million luxury headquarters.

Complete with 14 showers and nude sun-bathing facilities on the roof, the only things missing are the deckchairs and suntan lotion.

On Monday 21 May 2018, at the council's St Martin's Place headquarters, with the press and public excluded, Slough's Labour councillors secretly agreed to buy an empty office block in Windsor Road for a total of £40 to £45 million.

Council boss James Swindlehurst's choice is a 29 years-old, 6 storey block, which recently under-went a major face lift.

Formerly known as Observatory House, it was built on the original Observatory House office site, then leased by Rank Xerox, and the Normal Reeves (Motors) Ltd car showrooms in Windsor Road.

Slough Council let the developer close down the combined 140 spaces open-air public car park and over-night lorry park (from 16:30 daily) at the back (east side) of the building. It had an entrance in Herschel Street. The developer then built a three storey car park with 191 spaces for office staff and 250 spaces for public use.

The rebuilt Observatory House was occupied by ICL (International Computers, formerly ICT) and its acquisiter Fujitsu. Slough Council named its share of the car park "Herschel Car Park".

On 23 October 2014, face lift planning application P/00218/026, for new external cladding, new windows and internal alternations, was submitted to Slough Council.

The current building has been renamed 25 Windsor Road. It seems to have been empty since the renovations finished in 2016. Two estate agent companies have been appointed to find tenants, but so far without success.

The building is owned by a tax avoidance company:-

Observatory House (Jersey) Ltd
28 Esplanade, St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands JE2 3QA
created on 23 April 2014 as Jersey company number 115562.

The address is Jersey Trust Company which boasts of handling
$85 billion of wealth in off-shore financial centres including Jersey, Guernsey, Luxembourg, South Africa, British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands.

Unconfirmed council sources told the Slough Times the anonymous property owner, thought to be Russian, is in financial difficulties and is keen to sell.

25 Windsor Road is certainly chic and stylish. With 14 showers and four 17-people lifts, its very expensive opulence is too nice and luxurious for council workers and local councillors - especially when Labour cuts have deprived the pensioners and handicapped of their bus passes before 09:30 in the mornings.

With the Labour-run council ignoring housing repairs and road repairs, there is no good reason to reward badly performing council staff, some of whom dislike and abuse the public. Sadly the good ones tend to leave the council whilst those unable to get a job elsewhere remain or are paid almost £100,000 to go.

Suspended and then retired chief executive Ruth Bagley and pushed-out temporary chief executive Roger Parkin were exceptions - both got over £400,000 each.

For the council to occupy this impressive building would be a nasty slap-in-the-face for Slough's homeless sleeping on Slough's streets - always forgotten by Slough's uncaring and dismally failing Labour councillors.

Great building. Looks a really nice place to work BUT it is far too big for the council.

St Martin's Place has 65,000 square feet of office space. This building has almost double that, at 111,000 square feet.

If the council moved-in, 40% of the building would be empty. Not only would the council have to pay extremely high moving costs, but Cllr Swindlehurst would inevitable spend lots of public money trying desperately to fill-up most, if not all, of that unused 40% of the building.

Badly inflicted with an incurable spending addiction, always severe when public funds are involved, Cllr Swindlehurst might build an indoor gym only for council staff, a television lounge and bedrooms for the council's expensive contractors who live hundreds of miles away.

The council could move its staff, and its contractor Arvato's staff, out of Landmark Place on the Crown Corner (junction High Street and Windsor Road) into St James' Palace BUT the building in unsuitable for the type of work that happens at Landmark Place. So, once again, vast amounts of extra public money will need to be spent building new facilities inside St James' Palace.

The Slough Times remembers Cllr James Swindlehurst (then deputy leader of the council) together with Cllr Rob Anderson (then council leader) and their unsupervised council chief executive Ruth Bagley (left after being suspended) were frantically desperate to abandon the 1936 Town Hall, demolish the 1981 Town Hall extension and move into empty 1990 St Martin's Place building - probably Slough's ugliest building when viewed from the main road.

According to a fellow councillor, Cllr Swindlehurst was involved in the £4.5 million improvements at St Martin's Place about 3 years ago. The paint has hardly dried before Cllr Swindlehurst wants to knock-down St Martin's Place and turn it into tiny flats.

Slough Council has been in St Martin's Place for less than 10 years.

With a known record of weak and ineffective financial management, alleged by Labour Party personnel, and a not very tidy administrative mind, should the public blindly trust Cllr Swindlehurst to spend circa £40+ million of their money on a speculative venture neither the council nor the public can really afford AND which Labour might abandon in less than 10 years ?

10 days before publication, the Slough Times asked Cllr Swindlehurst for a comment. Slough Council's powerful boss did not respond to our invitation.