South Gloucestershire’s ruling Conservatives are “hell-bent” on leaving the council’s base in Kingswood say Labour, as Tory councillors last night voted down a bid to save the town’s Civic Centre. Labour had asked last night’s council meeting to halt work on plans to move out of the building, first announced in July, but neither of the other parties showed any support . Labour says that the attitude and language used by the ruling Conservatives demonstrates that they have totally closed their minds about retaining the Civic Centre.
Labour’s Leader on the Council, Councillor Pat Rooney, said after the vote:
“I was shocked by the dismissive attitude of Conservative councillors who refuse to accept that the Civic Centre is an important community asset that provides local jobs and a sense of civic pride. The Tories bizarrely claim that the building is full of surplus office space, despite the fact that hundreds of people work there. They refuse to address the fact that the building also holds the council’s decision-making meetings attended by the public, and that it hosts the training suite which is busy running courses throughout the week. The council deliberately created its own training suite to save money when the building was refurbished at a cost of £6 million between 2010 and 2012.
Local people will question whether the council can be trusted with public money if it chooses to close a building so shortly after a multi-million pound refurbishment.”
Councillor Rooney continued:
“Closing Kingswood Civic Centre would remove hundreds of jobs from the area with the highest unemployment in the district, and this is bound to have a bad effect on the local high street and trade. It would also increase car journey as staff and any member of the public in the Kingswood or neighbouring areas would have longer journeys to attend the council offices at Nibley, near Yate.
Conservative and Liberal Democrat talk about the need for localism and bringing the council closer to the people and their words ring very hollow today. In fact the Conservatives seem hell-bent on disposing of the Civic Centre and have closed their minds to alternatives to outright closure.
Despite the setback of last night’s vote, Labour will keep campaigning to save Kingswood Civic Centre. Local people will regard these plans as another slap in the face for the town, which just lost Soundwell College and the promise of a Minor Injury Unit at Cossham Hospital. In the meantime I have written to Kingswood’s MP Chris Skidmore to find out what he is prepared to do to support the Civic Centre’s future, as he strongly welcomed its refurbishment at the time and has spoken of the need for pride in our buildings and local communities.”