A SENIOR North Ayrshire councillor has likened one of the local authority's buildings to the 'Marie Celeste' - after arriving one day to discover only a handful of staff were present.

Councillor Tom Marshall asked a full NAC meeting for details of staff attendance at two of the council's buildings in particular - Bridgegate House and its Cunninghame House HQ, both in Irvine.

But he was told the issue was an operational one, rather than a subject for councillors to address - and was reminded that just because staff aren't working in a building doesn't mean they aren't working at all.

Councillor Marshall raised the issue of occupancy levels at NAC buildings in December, and council bosses have since drawn up a plan to rationalise their property portfolio by moving staff from other premises in Irvine into Cunninghame House.

He brought up the issue again at a full NAC meeting on March 27, asking the cabinet member for finance, Councillor Christina Larsen, for details of the number of staff attending Bridgegate House and Cunninghame House for one, two and three or more days per week.


A swipe card system called Kelio is used to record the attendance of individual NAC employees at both buildings.

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

In response, Cllr Larsen said that 369 employees at Cunninghame House attended for one day a week, during the week commencing March 11, while the figure at Bridgegate House was 86.

A further 353 employees attended Cunninghame House for two days during the same week, while at Bridgegate House the figure was 81.

The number of staff attending three or more days during the same week was 278 at Cunninghame House and 163 at Bridgegate House.

Cllr Marshall also asked about maximum possible attendance levels at the two buildings, and was told the figure was 1,050 for Cunninghame House and 450 for Bridgegate House.

He said: "I came in one Thursday and it was like the Marie Celeste. There were so few staff in attendance.

"It looks like Cunninghame  House is on average 30 per cent attendance in all these categories, while Bridgegate is slightly less.


"There are less an less coming in three or more days a week at Cunninghame House, while there is more coming in at Bridgegate three or more days. Is there any particular reason as to why this is the case?"

Council leader Marie Burns intervened at this stage and told Cllr Marshall: "Surely this is an operational issue and not a question for a cabinet member, why staff are not attending on any given day."

Largs and Millport Weekly News:  Cabinet Member for Finance Christina Larsen Cabinet Member for Finance Christina Larsen (Image: North Ayrshire Council)

Councillor Larsen said: "I don't know people's individual circumstances and their home lives, so I have no idea why people are attending on certain days.

"Because people are not working in the building doesn't mean that they are not working.

"As I am sure Councillor Marshall will appreciate, they may working from home, and sometimes they work from the office.

"We don't question each other as to why we are here, when we are here, and when we are not here."

The Marie Celeste - actually named the Mary Celeste, despite the widely-used alternative spelling - was a Canadian-built merchant ship found adrift and deserted in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Azores, in 1872.