The most unacceptable face of capitalism ever – Hitchin Town Hall and Museum

We cannot believe the greed, incompetence and malice which continues to make it impossible for the people of North Herts to have their long awaited museum at Hitchin Town Hall.

We have suffered years of vicious and unseemly public battles because some Hitchin Tories don’t like some Letchworth Tories. We’ve seen the leadership of the council apparently unable or unwilling to make the decisions and take the actions needed to resolve their differences.

For four miserable years all of this was conducted before our eyes, and Labour Councillors did all we could to mediate and suggest ways forward so that local residents could enjoy the facilities they pay for, and which we’re elected to provide. But personal animosities between Mr Leal-Bennett and the council’s Tory leaders took centre stage. And both sides seem to have forgotten what they should be focusing on: the resolution of the problems surrounding the new Museum premises in Brand Street.

Last May the electorate removed Mr Leal-Bennett from office. Maybe people were trying to send him a message that this had to stop. Of course, it hasn’t. Just after losing the election, Mr Leal-Bennett formed a new company – HTH Finance Ltd. This new company has paid off Hitchin Town Hall Ltd’s (HTH Ltd) debt to the Social Investment Business and acquired a charge over 14-15 Brand Street. Mr Leal-Bennett is a director of HTH Ltd too. And the title to the entrance to our museum still rests with HTH Ltd.

This is the worst possible news we could have imagined. The massive wealth, and even greater desire for revenge, of a few looks to be prolonging an internal Tory war to the detriment of the people of Hitchin and North Herts. We are being held to ransom over a tiny piece of land in the new museum complex. Because some people can afford to do what most of us wouldn’t dream of doing to the people we care about.

A few people in the town have mistaken wealth and vengeance for heroism. We haven’t. And we demand Mr Leal-Bennett come clean about his plans, and explain why he has pursued a course of action which has been so costly and detrimental to the people of North Herts.

Council hasn’t been blameless in this matter. But officers have, unfairly at times, been lambasted on social media and by Mr Leal-Bennett. But local services and resources, including officers, have been cut to the bone by the Tories nationally. It's hardly surprising major projects have faced so many issues and effective project management has been lacking. But that’s a wider concern Labour councillors will be pursuing.

What we absolutely object to is finding out our news via social media. It was absolutely unacceptable for the leader of the Council to tell the administrator of a Facebook group that NHDC had been outbid. This demonstrates Lynda Needham’s contempt not just for opposition Councillors, but all Councillors at NHDC.

We call upon the Council to sort this mess out now, and to set out its contingency plans if it cannot use the entrance at 14-15 Brand Street. People have had enough of this saga. And we can see why.

Cllrs. Frank Radcliffe, Judi Billing, Ian Albert, Elizabeth Dennis, Adrian Smith and Simon Watson

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  • Leonard Hughes
    commented 2016-08-16 01:24:34 +0100
    As someone who has lived in Hitchin for more than fifty years, I have always valued both the Hitchin and Letchworth museums. I have looked forward to using the new North Hertfordshire Museum; sometimes I have wondered over the past many months if in fact it will ever open. I don’t know where the responsibility for the present ridiculous contretemps lies. No doubt each of the various sides will say ‘Oh no, not me. It was the others.’ Probably now heels will be dug in very firmly by everybody – except, of course, the public, who, in the end will have to pay the price for whatever has caused all this …. whether it is enmity, spite, incompetence or just a general muddle. Who knows ? I don’t.

    Will it ever open, in the reasonably foreseeable future ? Just in time, perhaps, for central Government to make further cuts in local expenditure ? Perhaps a half finished, half open, half closed museum, staffed by volunteers, awaits.

    I feel very sorry for the public, who would like to use the Museum, for which they have paid, and for the Museum staff who have worked very hard over the past months on preparing for a state of the art functioning building. Perhaps the various clowns involved would like to acknowledge the work of the museum staff, who themselves are not responsible for the rubbish situation.
  • Bahkti Fitzpatrick-Matthews
    commented 2016-08-03 20:07:14 +0100
    The poor staff are thoroughly demoralised after working so bloody hard moving and collating two mudseum’s worth of stuff and are desperate to show the fantastic collections to the public.
  • Hitchin & Harpenden Labour posted about The most unacceptable face of capitalism ever – Hitchin Town Hall and Museum on Hitchin & Harpenden Labour's Facebook page 2016-08-03 14:43:54 +0100
    The most unacceptable face of capitalism ever – Hitchin Labour Councillors have had enough of the drama over the Town Hall and Museum.