Investing in an asset

I trust you feel able to print this letter in response to the criticism of the decision of Cramlington Town Council to purchase the Surveyor House as its new offices.

It is time to present the facts rather than the misinformation and inaccuracies from Tory councillors and others who have published in recent letters.

The town council has to move out of its premises in Concordia by the end of the year to allow improvement works to start, and we agreed that alternative premises should be located centrally to provide easy access to the public.

Much has been made about disability access by the Conservative members, but they were at the council meeting when I proposed that structural and disability surveys should be carried out first, which they voted against.

They played the ‘disability card’ in the full knowledge that purchase would not go ahead unless positive surveys were received.

We asked the leader of the Conservative group for alternative premises considered to be more suitable, which we would have investigated. Coun Daley did not respond to this request

The Tory secretary of state, Eric Pickles, MP, granted borrowing approval for funds, at a preferential interest rate, to purchase the property and costs of compliance with disability access and conversion works are built into the loan.

He clearly believes that the purchase is value for money even if local Tories do not.

This, by the way, is the same kind of loan that funded the new Cramlington specialist emergency care hospital.

There will be no increase in council tax as the costs for the new office can be met from existing budgets.

An extensive search by the town clerk in conjunction with the county council revealed that rental costs for premises elsewhere in Cramlington were prohibitive at over £40,000 per year, considerably more than the cost of purchase of the Surveyors House.

Clearly we have invested in a valuable asset for the people of Cramlington which will increase in value as a heritage for future generations.

Renting would be throwing good money after bad.

It is strange that the party of personal ownership would be against purchase. They are clearly out of touch suggesting the property would lose value when history shows that home ownership has shown increases in value over the longer term.

Purchase of a property in a residential estate is clearly a non-starter. Would readers relish seeing an office located on their estate resulting in an inevitable devaluation of their property? I think not.

The Labour controlled council instituted public question times at every council meeting to allow Cramlington residents to ask questions and hold town councillors to account.

We will be taking town council meetings out into local venues throughout Cramlington so that we will be going out to the people and not expecting people to come to us.

We are also committed to improving Cramlington through a partnership with the county council which has created ten new jobs and seen a substantial improvement in estate services like grass cutting. We have developed a landscape strategy to improve Cramlington to realise our ambition to make it a ‘Gateway to Northumberland’ of which people can be proud.

It’s a pity that Tory councillors are more interested in ‘political point scoring than having a positive strategy for improving Cramlington. We in the Labour Party are standing up for local people.

Allan Hepple

Labour Group Leader

Cramlington Town Council