Andover Town Council is to investigate the future of its offices in the town centre.

The council is looking into a range of options, including serviced office space in the town centre or at Test Valley Borough Council’s (TVBC) offices, occupying a shopfront in the high street or becoming fully remote.

Officers had prepared a report into some of these options, but have now been instructed by councillors to investigate further possibilities ahead of a decision that needs to be made before October.

At present, Andover Town Council occupies offices just off the High Street, which were closed in March 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.

Subsequently, in August, a report was presented to the Budgets and Staffing Committee suggesting the council could save £15,000 by moving to smaller premises and having staff work from home.

Then, in January, it was proposed the council could leave its offices in a bid to lower taxes for residents. At the time, officers were instructed to prepare a report on options for the council.

At a meeting of the town council’s Assets & Communities Committee on April 13, this report was brought before councillors. However, they were concerned over the number of options in the report, which were staying in the current offices, moving to a serviced office, or working remotely except where legally mandated to meet in person.

Cllr Luigi Gregori said: “I think we’re quite limited in the number of options and I think if we went to full council people would raise lots of other issues. I understand what the general thrust of it is.

Deputy clerk Tor Warburton said that they had looked at just these three options so far, but that they were “more than happy to look further”.

Cllr Joanne Coole suggested an open plan, serviced office.

She said: “It would get everyone back in the office and it is better, really, to have everyone working in an office.”

Cllr Christopher Ecclestone agreed, saying: “I’m absolutely convinced that we must have an office but I also recognise there has long been a view that the office is mediocre and unsuitable.

“The layout is such that staff are highly dispersed from each other so vision and oversight is almost impossible on a regular basis, so I would support the idea of a better more ergonomic and more accessible location than what we have here.”

He suggested moving to offices at the Chantry Centre, following plans by TVBC to convert two floors of Chantry House into a shared working space.

He said: “It wouldn’t be a long term option as we’ll see the whole thing dealt with by the masterplan but it’ll work for a few years and be accessible for people.

“It doesn’t address the issue for after hours meetings but in the wake of this pandemic I think we’ll want more socially distanced meetings than we’ve had up until now.”

Cllr Barbara Long, meanwhile, said she would like to ensure the council has “a presence on the high street”.

Cllr Gregori agreed, saying: “We should have some physical premises, though they don’t necessarily need to be manned all the time. We’ll need a place to keep hard copies of documents as there are requirements for that, but there’s nothing preventing us from going down the route of doing more flexible and remote work if we work out the necessary working practices.”

He added that the current situation was “a moving target” as the situation was constantly changing.

Cllr Rebecca Meyer said a compromise would be best, saying: “I think it would be a good idea to have a hybrid. We are Andover Town Council so we have to have councillors available to counsel and people should be able to visit an office.”

Cllr Christopher Ecclestone raised the possibility of having the offices combined with a tourist information office on the high street or one of its offshoots, though Cllr Long raised concerns over the potential costs of such a process.

Cllrs Coole and Ecclestone then proposed an amendment to instruct officers to investigate further options, including three for a serviced office space.

This was passed unanimously, followed by the report as a whole. Officers will now bring more options back to the June meeting, ahead of the October deadline for notifying the current landlords of the council’s offices that they are vacating the premises.