St Ives Town Hall decisions are rushed
WE have been told by the St Ives Town Clerk that no more meetings will take place on the Corn Exchange until after the elections on May 1. This is not true of the Town Hall, with frantic last minute meetings being held to secure funding and approvals for
WE have been told by the St Ives Town Clerk that no more meetings will take place on the Corn Exchange until after the elections on May 1. This is not true of the Town Hall, with frantic last minute meetings being held to secure funding and approvals for work to the council's own accommodation.
I recently attended another extraordinary meeting, this time of the finance and policy committee, where it was agreed (with only five councillors in attendance) to move £58,000 from the amenities budget to cover additional renovation works to the Town Hall, as the original budget of £175,000 for this has already been spent. The five members took the decision that work to install new heating and electrical systems at the same time as installing the new lift to make the building DDA compliant would be "prudent".
Far be it from me to question the necessity of this work without the facts, but surely "prudent" would have been to consider the implications and costs of the office moves in the Town Hall in depth before now, or at least before the budgets and precept for 2009 were set, which was after all only on January 9. Alternatively, in view of the imminence of the Corn Exchange renovation, could there now be a benefit to the taxpayer of delaying the Town Hall renovations and reconsidering the options for the offices?
The fact also remains that members of the Town Hall and Corn Exchange committee in February expressed concern at the cost of the new heating system, and also at the increased costs for the lift. They resolved to review the tenders when received to establish the full cost before agreeing how to proceed. These concerns were once again blatantly ignored at the recent meeting by a dominant minority of councillors.
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Just like the Corn Exchange, the work to the Town Hall has been on the agenda for years, yet the plans, tendering and approvals are now being rushed through in unplanned, abysmally attended meetings, at the expense of other community budgets, and without applying for any outside grants to reduce the cost to the taxpayer.
The town clerk writes in the latest issue of The Bridge that the £80,000 in reserve for the cemetery extension already leaves a shortfall of £80,000, yet at the meeting this element of the amenities budget was reduced by £25,000 without hesitation by the chairman of the amenities committee, Councillor Ablewhite.
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Other budgets considered sacrosanct by the mayor remained intact and unchallenged by those in attendance.
The tenders are due into the Town Hall only on April 30, and will be reviewed at a meeting of the Town Hall and Corn Exchange committee also on the same day, on the very last night before the election on May 1, with the contract to be issued thereafter.
It may well be permissible, but is it good practice to rush through such decisions in the dying hours of an obviously tired and disinterested town council, leaving the next council to deal with the shrapnel?