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Hutton Community Centre – The Facts

April 10, 2013 8:44 AM

Residents may have heard about the situation around the £165,000 allocated to the Hutton Community Centre and associated controversy. By refusing a debate on the issue and the allocation of our money, it seems like the Conservatives are keen to keep this whole issue as quiet as possible until after the County Council elections onThursday 2nd May. We believe that in the interests of openness and transparency you should know some important facts before then and make up your own minds on what is happening.

The Liberal Democrats in Brentwood have serious concerns about how this whole project is being taken forward by the Conservative administration running Brentwood Borough Council and we will hold them to account on this issue every step of the way.

FACT - 12 February 2013 - The Conservatives announce they are allocating £165,000 towards the refurbishment of the Hutton Community Centre. Lib Dem Leader Cllr David Kendall calls for the matter to be deferred for more information and discussion by councillors but the call is rejected by the Tory Leader Cllr Louise McKinlay.

Tory Cllr Keith Parker speaks in favour of the £165k investment and says in his speech:

"...to make it safe, have it fenced, have it protected, if we haven't and don't start that at a very, very early nature anybody discussing what to do with that centre will find just a pile of rubble because that's how it's being used at the moment"

FACT - On 20 February Cllr Keith Parker's own company "Process Installations" submits a tender for the fence to go round the Hutton Community Centre. The bid by his company for £12,076.73 was just £146.75 lower than the next tender who are a specialist fencing contractor. The Borough Council's normal practice is to write to contractors with drawings, details of materials, requested, site details etc. However we are told that due to the urgency of the work (to protect the site) in this instance the contractors were approached by phone. The tenders from the other two contractors were received by the Council on 11 March. Cllr Parker's company is not a fencing company. If you google Brentwood fencing firms his company doesn't appear at all. We are not suggesting that Cllr Parker has done anything illegal in bidding for the fencing work. However we would certainly question if it is ethically right for any councillor of any poltical party to speak up in favour of substantial investment in a building and a fence to make it safe, and then actually put in a bid for that work themselves.

FACT - On 12 March 2013 at the Audit Panel Meeting, following questions raised by a Lib Dem member, Cllr Keith Parker declares that he has a financial interest in the Hutton Community Centre after winning the tender for the fence. If these questions hadn't been asked by the Liberal Democrats we doubt wether anyone would have known what was going on.

FACT - 10 April 2013 - Despite claims on 12 February that a fence was needed asap to stop vandalism and anti-social behaviour, and the rushed procurement process, two months later we are still waiting for the fence to be erected.

FACT - A police investigation is currently underway which is looking into how a £50,000 grant from Essex County Council for refurbishing the Centre back in 2008 was spent. This investigation has nothing to do with the £165k recently allocated by Brentwood Borough Council.

FACT - The Liberal Democrats position on the Hutton Community Centre is clear. We want to see investment in the building so that it can be refurbished and used once again by all who live in the community. However we want to see clear checks and balances in place to make sure this money is spent properly and we also want assurances in terms of how the Centre is going to be managed and maintained going forward.