Kingswood Civic Centre may win a partial reprieve, but Labour councillors are warning that its total closure is still a live option.
The threat of closure has hung over the South Gloucestershire Council building since last summer when the ruling Conservatives indicated a preference for consolidating and rationalising accommodation at Badminton Road, an office block on the outskirts of Yate. This position was formally adopted in February despite local residents submitting a 1,600 signature petition against closure.
Following a consultation exercise over the summer the council has just published its findings in a report to go to the council’s Resources Committee for a decision on 27 June. The recommendation being put to councillors is that the Council should retain the Civic Suite of council chamber and committee rooms and existing training facilities at Kingswood, and move the library into the Civic Centre to provide a community hub. Other parts of the building would be leased to tenants.
However, if a lease is not finalised by the end of October, the council would move to market the building for lease or sale on the open market, with the Council moving out.
Labour’s Lead on the council’s Resources Committee, Councillor Adam Monk, says:
“Labour councillors have consistently opposed the proposed closure of Kingswood Civic Centre and have outlined clear reasons why we think this would be a terrible decision. The consultation report has recognised some of our stated concerns, such as the effect that closure would have on trade in the town centre and the ability of local residents to attend decision-making meetings. We also pointed out that withdrawing from this flagship presence would signify a downgrading of the town’s status.
The option of disposing of the Civic Centre on the open market should not be on the table. Local residents remain shocked that the council is even considering disposing of the building when it spent £6 million refurbishing it as recently as 2013.”
Labour’s Leader on the Council, Kingswood councillor Pat Rooney, says that the new proposal still fails to address Labour’s concern about the loss of jobs from Kingswood. Councillor Rooney says:
“The revised proposal would still see hundreds of council jobs shipped out of Kingswood. This will increase commuting, congestion and traffic pollution, with staff forced to travel further to work. We have made the point that Kingswood has higher unemployment levels than most of South Gloucestershire, and that local people want local jobs. We do not know how many jobs a new tenant might provide, but the Council should be setting a positive example by investing in Kingswood.
I am disappointed that the ruling Conservatives are still pursuing a plan that will lead to the removal of council jobs from Kingswood and urge them even at this late stage to abandon that policy.”