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Statement: Hutton Community Centre

March 20, 2013 9:08 AM
When it was proposed that £165k should be allocated from the Capital programme to refurbish the Hutton Community Centre at the budget setting meeting on February 12th, Lib Dem Leader Cllr David Kendall asked for the matter to be deferred to a Committee / Panel for a proper discussion and debate by members so that all the details could be properly considered. His request was turned down by the Tories.
The fact that Cllr Kendall asked for a deferral did not mean that The Liberal Democrat group were against any investment in the Centre. We simply wanted to try and ensure that past mistakes were not repeated and that there were proper checks and balances in place going forward in terms of how the money was spent and how the work was done.
Since the budget meeting there has been a public meeting held in Hutton to discuss the future use of the Centre with a view to it becoming a Community hub. Once again the Liberal Democrat group have no problem with the general concept as it sounds like a good idea. However arising out of what was said at that meeting by officers and members we wanted to get clarification on a number of points.
It was for that reason that Cllr Kendall asked for the matter to be discussed as an item of urgent business at the Policy & Resources Board meeting on 13th March because after the Full Council meeting on March 20th there isn't another meeting in the calendar until the new Council year starts again in May.
In requesting it as an item of urgent business, Cllr Kendall raised a number of legitimate points in his e-mails to the Leader Cllr Louise McKinlay which he said he wanted all members of the Council to have an opportunity to discuss in open session but the Leader turned down his request. At the Policy Board meeting a heated discussion took place when Cllr Kendall made a verbal request for matters relating to Hutton Community Club to be discussed under urgent business. Once again his request was turned down.
Cllr Kendall said that if £165k of the Borough Council's money is being spent on aCommunity Centre then all the members of the Borough Council had a right to know the following points and be given an opportunity to discuss them at a Panel / Committe meeting:
1) What is the timescale for the tendering and procurement process?
2) What work has taken place on the Centre since the £165k was set aside at the budget setting meeting and who has carried out that work?
3) Are the Council using approved contractors for any work on the Centre or can anyone apply?
4) How are any volunteers who offer to do work on the Centre going to be managed by the Council?
5) Who will be checking to ensure that any work done by the volunteers is to the standard the Council requires?
6) Can we have details of the tendering and procurement process?
7) Which Council officer is managing this whole process?
8) When did the tender process start?
9) When was the Hutton Community Centre signed over to the Borough Council?
10) Do any members of the Conservative group have a financial interest in the Hutton Community Centre?
11) When will members have an opportunity to discuss these issues at a Panel / Committee meeting?
12) How is the Hutton Community Centre going to be managed going forward?
The Liberal Democrat group want to ensure that the correct protocols and procedures have been put in place to ensure that the £165,000 of public money is spent in a correct manner and that all members are made aware of what those protocols and procedures are.
Cllr Kendall called the decision not to discuss the Hutton Community Centre at the Policy Board a "cover up" because he could see no reason for the matter not be discussed in open session. He believes that if it had been discussed then various issues would have hopefully been clarified to members satisfaction and we could have moved on.
The Conservative administration running Brentwood Borough Council talks a lot about "Openness and Transparency" - now is the time to deliver it on this very important issue.