By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
County Hall has been handed back to Nottinghamshire County Council but continues to be closed to staff following a fire that spread to four floors of the authority’s West Bridgford headquarters.
A clean-up operation is underway after the emergency services handed over the building back to the authority, with investigations continuing to take place into Thursday’s fire (July 28).
Staff are being told to either work from home or from alternative buildings while the clean-up takes place, with the fire service confirming the historic building has suffered fire, smoke and water damage.
This will continue to be the case until the building is safe for staff to return.
Some staff who left essential items in the building prior to the evacuation, which took place shortly before midday on Thursday, were allowed to attend County Hall over the weekend to collect their belongings
This included items like car and house keys and important medication.
Workers needing to collect work-related items, such as laptops and phones, will be able to attend County Hall to access their items on Monday afternoon and Tuesday, the authority has now confirmed.
Providing an update on Monday, the council added: “County Hall has been handed back to the county council by the emergency services and the clean-up is now underway.
“Since the fire on Thursday morning, services have been carrying on as usual from other buildings or staff have been working from home, which meant key services were not affected.
“Staff will continue to work from home or other offices, where possible, whilst the recovery plan is underway.
“Thank you to staff for their professionalism over the last few days and to the emergency services, who continue to be on-site at County Hall while the investigation is completed.”
The fire initially started inside the corridors of the ruling Conservative group, on the first floor of the building, before spreading to the second, third and fourth floors.
The office where the fire began could be seen badly damaged with a window destroyed in pictures taken on Monday morning.
Twelve fire engines were at the scene to tackle the fire, with Nottinghamshire crews supported by stations in neighbouring Derbyshire and Leicestershire as well as Nottinghamshire Police and the ambulance service.
The fire service confirmed on Thursday that nobody was injured during the incident.
However, the council expects the fire to cause significant disruption to the way the ruling Conservative group operates.
Councillor Ben Bradley (Con), leader of the council, confirmed shortly after the fire that the councillors will need to find a new base, with several offices expected to be damaged by flames and smoke.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It doesn’t look good at all for that portion of the building, certainly, it looks like we’re not going to get back into our corridor … for quite some time.
“We’re going to have to look for some alternative accommodation, I think it’s very unlikely we’re going to be allowed back into that part of the building any time soon.”
He added: “The key thing now whilst we await that assessment is that everybody is safe.
“We’re looking at alternative working arrangements to make sure services can continue uninterrupted, which so far is all okay, so big thanks to the fire service.”
Some initial disruptions to IT systems at the authority, including customer service lines being down on Friday, have now been resolved – with the council’s phone number accepting calls on Monday.
However, a notice on the council’s website, which was down for an hour on Monday, said: “Some services on our website are currently unavailable following a fire at County Hall which has affected our IT systems.
“We are working to restore these and apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”