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Council Buy £200 000 Building

February 4th 2011

The Old Magistrates Court

The Old Magistrates Court

Town Hall

The Town Hall

Louth Town Council has voted to spend £200 000 on new premises for itself. The councillors decided to move to the old Magistrates Court on Eastfield Road because of problems with the upkeep costs of their current location in the town hall.

What is interesting about this deal is that information about it has been embargoed for several months. The general public have only been allowed to learn about it now that the vote has been taken and the property deeds are already signed. There has therefore been no public consultation.

The purchase is to be financed by debt, because Louth Town Council doesn't actually have £200 000. The loan will be repaid over 10 years.

The move comes at a time when the same council has closed the toilets at Hubbards Hills for financial reasons. When we're always hearing about austerity and cutbacks, why is the town council splashing out on this building?

The town hall where the council currently holds its fortnightly meetings is dogged with maintenance problems because it's very old and in need of refurbishment. ELDC owns the town hall. When the council moves out it remains to be seen what use will be made of that space.

Of the 21 town councillors, only two voted against of the purchase. The votes break down as follows:

For

Against

Abstained

Mrs. Eileen Ballard JP
Brian Burnett
Fabian G. Coonghe
John P. Dean
Mrs. Mary W. Finch
Christopher Green
Andrew Leonard
Mrs. Sue Locking
John R. Macdonald
Mrs. Jill Makinson-Sanders
Trevor M. Marris
Mrs. Margaret Ottaway MBE
Keith R. Sharp
David M. Skinner
David E. Wing
Brian R. Williamson
John E. Gains
Ms Laura Stephenson
Fergus Robertson
Mrs. Pauline F. Watson


Laura Stephenson was one of the councillors who opposed the move. "I'm uncomfortable with the secrecy," she said. "Spending this much money when there's a recession on seems wasteful, and I really don't see that we've moved anywhere better. We're supposed to be a Transition Town. We should have moved to somewhere more ecologically friendly."

A document issued by the Ministry of Justice estimated the running costs for the Magistrates Court in the financial year 2009/10 at around £25,500 for maintenance and rates.

To put the cost of buying the Magistrates Court in context, the Town Council had income and expenditure of around £221 000 in the year ending March 2010, according to their published accounts.



 


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