Special Town Council Meeting 05.3.18

By Chris Slough

The Town Council’s decision (12 February 2018) to form a sub-committee to consider future office provision should not have been necessary.

The Town Council commissioned an independent survey, which reported a year ago and said that we could extend the life of the present offices by up to 20 years with an expenditure of just £20,000. Good value for money. After 10 years the revenue from new houses in HRN1 and HRN2 would start to come on stream and this would help to pay for a new building.

Who knows, plots of land might become available to use if we can persuade the Conservative led CBC to show more care for our town than they have done in the past?

The Town Clerk reported that there was room to accommodate new staff and if necessary we could always have public meetings in the community centre, where we have the Town Meeting every year. However, other councillors, who form the majority on the Town Council, are in a hurry to get a new building. For us there is an important principle involved. We should always try to get the best value for money for the residents of the town. This means the residents who are present here and now, because it is their money we are spending. When the town is twice the size, there will be more of us living in Houghton to shoulder the burden of paying for the new offices demanded by the increased size of the town.

Of course, we must not take risks where there may be concerns for the health and safety of our staff. We had an asbestos report in 2014, so it is a good thing to have an update and the new floor should have been done with all the repairs a year ago.

In the coming years, we will all pay more in Council Tax. This is because the Conservative government has reduced the funds allocated to Local Authorities and CBC has to meet the essential costs of providing Social Care. This is not the time to be spending on new Council Offices, involving the borrowing very large sums of money.

That is why when the terms of reference for the sub-committee were discussed, Labour councillors tried to make it a requirement that the committee should have to give the cost of every option to buy or rent that it considered when it reports back to the Town Council. In this way, residents would know how much extra they were going to have to pay for new offices that are not needed at the present time.

Unfortunately, the other councillors, who control the Town Council, voted this down.

Having failed to achieve this, we voted with everyone else for the Recommendation and two of our Labour team will work with others on the new sub-committee and hopefully keep you all well-informed.