Monday, June 11, 2007

Politics Almost Working

Basildon Town Centre project's procurement of a development partner came to Basildon Council's Cabinet last Thursday. As previously posted the principle of rebuilding Basildon Town Centre for the benefit of the local community is not the subject of any disagreement by any party, political or otherwise. However, there are different views on the previously published Development Framework and this meant that the Labour opposition on the Council did not feel that they could support everything that was proposed. To be fair though, they did vote for the parts of the recommendations that they felt they could instead of rejecting the lot. We have a Conservative majority on the Cabinet, so the procurement was approved anyway.

The bit in the Development Framework that local Labour Party don't like is where we propose to demolish and rebuild elsewhere both the current Council offices and the local theatre. These were built by a Labour Council in the 80s, funded by a mechanism that is now illegal, and are both unfit for their primary purpose. The offices are too small, cramming staff in like battery hens. Part of one floor is actually uninhabitable in summer due the heat trapped by the greenhouse roof and the building's position cordons off one end of the Town Centre. The theatre has a full-size stage but only around 400 seats in the auditorium, which makes it very difficult to get enough bums on seats to pay for the sort of show that could make best use of the facility. Previous attempts to run the place as a fully-programmed professional theatre were a financial disaster. It is currently is performing good service as a community theatre, but that role only requires a fraction of it current footprint. Despite these demerits, the Labour Party wants to retain both buildings and we have had to agree to differ, so that the project can go forward with a degree of political unity. On the basic proposition of rebuilding Basildon Town Centre there is no argument. Everyone wants this project to happen.

Pretty good for local government work.

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