One of the largest items on the capital side of the budget is an £8.7 million allocation for “Building of new service centres in Acton, Greenford and Southall”. There is no further information. As we shall see the council’s capital spending is restricted by what we can afford but also by the requirement to prioritise building enough primary school places to cope with our burgeoning population. This was a constraint that the Tories had to live with for four years and it will constrain Labour too. With such little room for manoeuvre, why is Labour prioritising council offices?
There is a great case I think for the Acton regeneration scheme, taking in as it does a wide range of dilapidated public buildings that dominate the centre of Acton. If there is a need for some council offices as a part of that then this may be justified but I can’t help thinking that the Acton regeneration project will be simpler, safer, cheaper and more deliverable if any standard office space required in Acton is procured separately.
The case for Greenford and Southall is very hard to make in the current circumstances. Shiny new council offices or investment in parks? Shiny new offices or a better road outside your house? Shiny new offices or buildings to support the voluntary sector? Labour’s inclination seems to be to look after its own rather than residents.
In order to understand what Labour are doing you need to understand the officer-led Property Strategy, see here. The Property Strategy gobbles up day centres, community centres, school and nursery sites and small car parks in its voracious maw and spews out three council offices. The £8.7 million allocation in the budget is only a net figure. The gross cost of these three hubs, a concept thrown out by the Tories in 2006, is more like £30 million.
More shiny baubles? Oh yes. Don’t forget that these are the same people that brought you the £61.3 million Response programme.