A fog of figures descended on the Sun Hotel, as warring Conservative Councillors exchanged a series of numbers and “Blue on Blue” attacks to demonstrate their version of events leaving the public little clearer on what’s happened to delay the opening of Hitchin Town Hall.
Councillor Richard Thake claimed that the overspend on the project was only £400,000 and a 10% overspend was acceptable on large projects. Well, it may be to him, but not to Labour! Who exactly is funding the project – not Richard, but local taxpayers. What else has to be cut to fund the overspend?
Meanwhile, Councillor David Leal-Bennett claims the overspend is £1.2 million. This is the same Councillor who has cost the Council thousands of pounds in having to take disciplinary action against him for his behaviour. And he is the same Councillor (subject to any appeal) who was found guilty of bullying and harassing behaviour. No matter the issue, that type of behaviour and treatment of people is completely unacceptable.
If Conservative Councillors can’t agree with each other on a major issue, it strengthens the need for political change on North Herts Council (NHDC).
There was a strong Labour presence at the meeting. Labour Councillors Frank Radcliffe, Judi Billing, Adrian Smith and Deborah Segalini alongside Labour candidates Ian Albert and Elizabeth Dennis all attended.
To loud applause, it took Judi to set out the feeling of many at the meeting. This should not be about finding Council Officers to blame. There had been a clear failure of political leadership and direction from the ruling Conservative Group. Judi also pointed out that the Town Hall had been neglected for many years by NHDC.
Many members of the public urged NHDC to get on with opening the Town Hall and a need to sit round the table to come up with solutions, particularly as 14/15 Brand Street entrance is in the hands of the Receiver and up for sale. This could be disastrous and cost taxpayers even more money.
The Town Hall and Museum will be a wonderful community asset. It’s clear that there will still be more work needed on it as the project planning has not gone well. But let’s celebrate that we still have an asset like this to use.
Finally, thanks to those people who organised the meeting. It’s important to have events where the public can question decision makers.
Labour Candidate for Hitchin, Bearton Ward