Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Tale of two Labour Councils

The Tale of two Labour Councils, one what it believes to be a safe Labour area and one that knows they have to listen to local residents. Below is the story of Telford and Wrekin Council scrapping its plans for a lush new civic centre and opting for a modest refurbished building after moving out of its 1970’s HQ.

In January 2011 Telford Labour launched an e-petition against a new Civic Centre and group leader Councillor Keith Austin said early indications were that residents were outraged the Tory council was spending millions on lavish offices in a prime site in the light of the Government cuts, he added: "If the whole basis of the development was reliant on the building of civic offices then there would be cause for great concern, but we do not believe that is the case. What this Tory administration fails to tell everyone is that they are borrowing millions to build offices. This will impact on the revenue budget and will mean cuts to services and jobs."

In May 2011 Telford Labour were elected into power and Councillor Austin said plans to build multi-million pound civic offices at the heart of the £250 million Southwater development would be scrapped immediately. He said council staff could be relocated to existing council buildings in the town centre, including Darby House, to save cash. "We won't be building new offices in Southwater Square, which will save millions of pounds that would have had to be borrowed to fund it".

Following the election defeated former council leader Andrew Eade, has labelled Labour's plans to shelve the offices project as "economic vandalism" that could rob the borough of millions of pounds of private investment. He said the planned civic offices were the "lynchpin" that held the whole development together and warned developers would think twice about coming there without it.

January 2013 Building work starts on Southwater development which is due for completion early 2014. Cineworld has already been announced as operator of the new Southwater Square 's 11 screen multiplex cinema and chief executive Steve Wiener was in Telford today to meet council leader Kuldip Sahota. Now eight instantly recognisable names from the hotel and catering industry have also been announced as operators of surrounding buildings. They include Bella Italia, Chimichanga, Harvester, Nando's, Premier Inn, Pizza Express, Wagamama and Zizzi.

Separately Telford and Wrekin Council has also announced it has bought vacant office development Addenbrooke House in Telford Town Centre.  Telford and Wrekin Council is moving out of Civic offices where it has been based since 1976. Moving to Addenbrooke House will help it to save office space and more than £2m a year. He said: "It's £5m in total - the purchase of the Addenbrooke House, refurbishment, ICT improvement of the Darby house and the refurbishment of it. It is good value for money. It's a lot better than building a whole new office and trying to do it up and spending £20- £30m on it."

Why can’t Stoke on Trent City Council understand value for money? Telford and Wrekin had to move out of their ageing 70’s building but resisted wasting money on a plush new building, and still got the regeneration they wanted in the City. Stoke on Trent City Council have no need to even move, yet are still insisting on wasting money and ignoring the views of their residents.

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