Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have triggered a debate on the future of Kingswood Civic Centre when the Council meets next week. Back in July, just weeks after assuming full control, the Conservative majority council announced that it was reviewing “the use of Kingswood Civic Centre and whether we need this office space in addition to Badminton Road [outside Yate] in the future and how we could potentially accommodate more staff and facilities, including a council chamber, at Badminton Road”.
Labour councillors say that the Tories have a firm intention to close the building and move its services and staff in order to meet a budget target for 2017/18. The Council’s Conservative Leader pointedly refused to deny this when pressed on BBC Radio Bristol on 24 July.
Labour has launched a petition to save services and jobs at the building, and has now tabled a motion for discussion at the Council meeting on 14 October which calls on the authority to abandon plans that would involve the closure of Kingswood Civic Centre. The Party’s councillors say that any suggestion to close the Civic Centre is financially crazy as the Council spent £6 million on refurbishing the building as recently as 2012.
The Labour Group’s Leader, Councillor Pat Rooney, says:
“It is clear that the Conservative leadership views Kingswood Civic Centre as just an office block and a disposable Council asset. We know that it is far more important than that and performs many roles in our community. We believe that closing Kingswood Civic Centre would make it more difficult for local people to access services and make it more difficult for residents to attend meetings that are taking decisions on their behalf, as the Badminton Road alternative has poor public transport and visitor parking. It would remove jobs from the ward with the highest level of unemployment, increase commuting, congestion and traffic pollution, and reduce visits to Kingswood that will affect trade in the town centre.”
Councillor Rooney points to other recent disappointments for Kingswood and says that the possible closure of the Civic Centre is a further insult to the town. She says:
“Closing the Civic Centre would signal a further downgrading to the area, following the loss of Soundwell College and the rejection of a Minor Injury Unit at Cossham by Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt MP. Labour believes that the Civic Centre is a flagship building which plays a key role in promoting civic pride in Kingswood. We know that the Council has to find savings to deal with the budget cuts imposed by the government, but this is an unacceptable option and we hope that other Kingswood politicians will unite with us to save the Civic Centre.
Local people are slowly becoming aware of the news that the Civic Centre is under threat and I urge them to sign our petition, write to their MP and attend the Council meeting next Wednesday evening.”