At tonight's Cabinet meeting a number of important and controversial matters were raised...
I welcomed the reversal to close the four libraries and the upgrade some of the libraries’ IT facilities. Although the document we discussed was a strategy document it lacked any real back bone of actions and timescales. I questioned the reduction in opening hours as this is counter intuitive, if the aim is to get more use out of our libraries.
Also there is a current lack of initiative on whether existing libraries will be upgraded – this could come from monies that developers pay the Council (legitimately) when larger applications occur to offset negative affects such as more traffic.
Budget proposals (savings): -
I had a chance to ask about two items. The first was whether the money (about £200,000) that the council will gain by shutting down and selling off a civic amenity site on Adelaide Road, Southall. The Labour councillors said that the money would go down as a saving instead of a reallocation to improving recycling in Southall (where the rates are very low compared to many areas in the borough).
I saw that the Council is making proposals to reduce the number of staff answering phone calls in the Parking Services Team (due to more people using the internet). No details were given about the actual number of staff at risk from losing their jobs.
Priory Community Centre to be a school:-
The Liberal Democrats for a long time have said a joint school and refurbished community centre is the best option. The plan currently is to close the Priory and move the user groups away (no commitment made about where they would have to use as buildings to provide their community activities) while a primary school is built.
But over the past year we have asked a number of questions in the Council chamber and at Cabinet meetings to establish rights for the current Priory users; more specifically in terms of where they will be housed; priority in booking rooms in a new community space; and pricing. No ‘copper-bottomed’ guarantees were given by Labour.
I said that the Liberal Democrat party would “call in” the decision (which means it can be discussed at a future meeting where changes might be made.
After that a resident who is chair of a group of Priory Centre user groups made a very passionate speech to the Labour councillors demanding that they were going back on previous promises.