Monday, 8 February 2016

Sambrook Centre Consultation

Last year Stirchley & Brookside Parish Council agreed in principle to buy the Sambrook Centre which currently houses the parish council, the library and a Fairshare office.

The decision came about after the space allocated to the parish council in the new school was repeatedly shrunk to the point where it would have been impossible for the parish council to offer an acceptable level of service to the public. Councillors unanimously agreed that the only way to continue to deliver acceptable services to residents was to buy the building from Telford & Wrekin Council.

A lot of work has been done already in securing agreements from Telford & Wrekin Council to put the money they would have spent demolishing the building into carrying out works to reconnect services and disconnect the building gracefully from the remains of the school should the purchase go ahead. However, there is still a lot of work that needs doing to the building to get it into a good state of repair (more on that in a moment).

The council looked at alternatives before recommending that the Sambrook Centre was bought such as relocating to Brookside Central (not enough room), moving to different offices (there aren't any in the parish) or building something from scratch (way out of the parish council's price range).

So what now? As I mentioned, Telford & Wrekin Council have agreed to put the money budgeted for demolishing the Sambrook Centre toward the cost of making it a standalone building. There is a considerable amount of work that will still need doing to the Sambrook Centre to stop it leaking when it rains heavily, beef up the electricity supply, ensure the heating works when it's needed rather than when it feels like it, comply with health and safety regulations, etc., and it won't be cheap.

The parish council has cash reserves that will pay some of the cost but it will be necessary to borrow money to pay for the rest. As a public body, the parish council can take advantage of the Public Works Loans Board which is effectively the bank of the taxpayer. The PWLB offers cheap loans to public bodies for public works which includes the purchase of community assets like the Sambrook Centre. In order to qualify for such a loan the parish council has to show that it can repay the loan, is acting in the best interests of residents and in accordance with their wishes. As part of the parish council's public consultation, an online survey has been created which I would encourage as many people as possible to respond to.

I am very much opposed to councils borrowing money just to make ends meet or to fund pre-election vote winners but this is neither of those. If the parish council doesn't purchase the Sambrook Centre it will close, the library will be homeless and almost certainly close and there appears to be no way for the parish council to maintain a presence in the parish it is there to serve. I could not, in all conscience, vote in a way that would see what I believe is a priceless community asset lost. You may have a different view, of course, in which case I would urge you to make your views known and suggest alternatives.

If you have any questions about the purchase of the building or the decisions that were made then please contact the parish council who can give you the official line rather than my opinion.