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Why Labour opposes the Civic Complex
Tunbridge Wells Labour is opposing Conservative proposals for a new Civic Complex including new council offices, an underground car park and theatre. (Full Times of Tunbridge Wells article here).
In the absence of a formal test of public opinion we surveyed our 780 members. 68% of the respondents are opposed to the development, 25% support it, and 7% are neutral. This compares with two informal referendums in the borough where 80% voted to oppose the development with 20% giving it their support.
At a time when living standards are continuing to fall, there is a housing crisis, homeless and poverty are on the increase, many are facing traffic gridlock and dangerous air pollution, and up to 15 borough wide bus services are set to be cut, we think this is the wrong priority for council spending.
The project finances are a major cause of concern and look risky. Like many public sector projects the final cost of £90m will almost certainly be more. Annual mortgage payments of around £2.8m for 50 years will be paid for through council service cuts and increased charges. There will be very little money left to meet the real daily needs of residents.
As a project totally focused on Tunbridge Wells, paid for by every one living across the borough, there is little of benefit for people living in Paddock Wood, Cranbrook, Hawkhurst and outlying villages. All they have to look forward to is more cuts in their bus services and charges for their garden waste collections.
An ambitious council would work across the borough with local communities to renew towns and villages that feel treated like second class citizens. It would collaborate with other partners to invest in housing, new business workspaces, better public transport and infrastructure.
The Town Hall and Assembly Hall might not be up to scratch but times are difficult. People are living on tight budgets and having to make do. Building costly new civic buildings, with more cuts and charges on the way, seems an extravagance too far.
The council should look again at the less expensive modernisation of the existing buildings, maybe as part of the forward looking conversion of the art gallery, library and adult education centre into a £13m Cultural and Learning Hub.
With creativity and flair these types of renovations can be functional, cost effective, and attractive.
Although the Council has taken a decision to go ahead with the project we urge residents to continue to express their views to their local councillors and to make their views known by electing Labour councillors at the local election on 3 May 2018.
You can read more about the plans here. http://www.twciviccentre.co.uk/