Majority want to keep Town Hall

RE: Town Hall consultation

I have been awaiting with great interest the results of the consultation exercise on the future of the Town Hall. By the number of people who have spoken and written to me on the subject I felt I could guess the result, but the interpretation of the percentages by the council officers is disingenuous if not plain fraudulent.

The options were as follows:

Option 1 – retain the Town Hall in its present location; Option 2 – move the council’s back office and civic function to Prospect House and retain a town centre Customer First presence; Option 3 – move the council’s back office to Prospect House and retain a town centre Customer First presence and civic functions for council and committee meetings.

The results: Option 1 51 per cent; Option 2 30 per cent; Option 3 19 per cent.

By adding together options 2 and 3 the officers claim a close result of 49 per cent to 51 per cent. This is because both the 30 per cent and the 19 per cent have expressed a wish to “opt to move the council’s back office accommodation to Prospect House”. This is true.

However, it is equally true to say that both the 51 per cent and the 19 per cent wish to “retain and refurbish the existing Town Hall to be utilized for civic functions”. Therefore it is equally true to say that 70 per cent wish to retain our present Town Hall and 49 per cent wish to purchase Prospect House. I see that as a clear and legitimate majority in favour of retaining the splendid existing Town Hall.

My next observation is “surely this much-vaunted exercise was to save £260,000 per year in maintenance costs?” But surely we were told that “to retain the historic town hall building for the civic function would add a further £86,000 operating budget, plus a further £120,000 to finance the capital works (up to £1.5 million); totalling an additional revenue growth of £260,000 plus the additional running costs of operating a new town hall.” (Figures obtained from Report To Cabinet to be held on March 20, 2012). Bearing in mind the aim of saving money, why was option 3 ever included? Please note that in March, Option 1 was Option A and Option 2 was Option B and Option 3 did not exist.

Smoke and mirrors seem to characterise this extraordinarily important decision.

Jean Greenan

The Park