Conservative councillors in South Gloucestershire have voted to confirm their preference to move the Council out of Kingswood Civic Centre despite a 1,675 name petition opposing the move.
The Conservative-controlled Council today agreed its preference for “consolidating and rationalising accommodation at Badminton Road”, a building on the outskirts of Yate. Labour councillors are criticising the decision to express a preference ahead of a formal consultation, saying that this pre-determines the issue.
Presenting the 1,675 name petition, local resident Ann Harrison expressed amazement that the Council would move out of a building that had reopened just four years ago following a £6 million upgrade. She warned councillors that closure of the Civic Centre would signal a further downgrading of Kingswood, following the recent closure of Soundwell College and the withdrawal of the promise of a Minor Injury Unit at Cossham Hospital.
[Photograph of petitioner Ann Harrison and Councillor Pat Rooney]
Labour’s leader on the Council, Councillor Pat Rooney, pointed out that moving 300 staff away from Kingswood was a backward step in regenerating the area with the highest level of unemployment in the district, and would badly affect trade in the town centre. Moving jobs to Yate would also create more commuter journeys, contributing to congestion and pollution.
Councillor Pat Rooney says:
“I am appalled that the Conservatives have expressed a preferred outcome to its consultation on future accommodation, as this seems to be prejudging the issue. Many will now conclude that Kingswood’s closure is a done deal. Labour will continue to oppose the proposed closure of Kingswood Civic Centre as it performs so many functions to the public, including hosting all Council meetings.
The Badminton Road building is a poor alternative for the general public. It has a tiny amount of public parking space and poor bus links from most parts of South Gloucestershire. The likely outcome of closing the Civic Centre is that fewer members of the public will participate in decision making meetings.
The Conservatives seem completely unbothered that closing the Civic Centre would result in shipping 300 jobs out of Kingswood. I have raised this twice with Kingswood’s Tory MP, Chris Skidmore, who has not responded to the last letter that I sent him on 11th December. Local people want local jobs and many staff who work at Kingswood Civic Centre live locally.
Kingswood is getting a raw deal. Today’s decision signals that the Tories think that our town is not important enough to have a flagship Council presence. Under the Conservatives, Kingswood is being downgraded at every turn.”