Haringey Civic Centre Plan: Liberal Democrats force review

Liberal Democrats have forced a temporary reprieve on the sell-off of the borough’s Civic Centre by referring the decision for review by the Council’s watchdog. The controversial scheme approved by the Labour-run Council’s Cabinet on 28th July 2008 proposes a £12m overhaul of Woodside House in Wood Green and a new Haringey Council chamber built at the back.

The decision will be reviewed at a special meeting of the Council’s watchdog Overview and Scrutiny committee. The body has powers to force the Cabinet to reconsider its decision or to force the matter to be decided by an emergency meeting of the full council.

Liberal Democrats have demanded that Haringey Council reconsiders its plan and have proposed alternative actions: that residents should be asked whether they want to use £12 million for the scheme; current users of Woodside House should be fully consulted; no firm decision should be taken in the current uncertain economic climate to invest until funding is secured from the sale of the current civic centre site and that the Council investigates the opportunity to move Council meetings to different locations in the borough.

The special Overview and Scrutiny meeting will be held at the Civic Centre on Tuesday 19th August at 19:30.

Cllr Robert Gorrie, Haringey Liberal Democrat Leader comments:

“This lavish plan for a new Civic Centre at Woodside House demonstrates just how out of touch Labour are.The economic climate is simply not right, and with residents squeezed by the credit crunch and inflation, they don’t want to see the Council spending £12 million of their money on a new meeting room for councillors.

“We have countless buildings in Haringey that could hold Council meetings and ceremonies – Tottenham Town Hall, Hornsey Town Hall, Alexandra Palace, the Irish Centre and numerous school halls. Unfortunately, Haringey Labour lacks the vision to propose such a radical solution.”

Lynne Featherstone, local Liberal Democrat MP added:

“Time after time Labour’s reaction to challenge is to waste more of residents’ money by throwing cash at new projects. I’m sure residents would much rather have this money spent on schemes that would benefit everyone – not just councillors.”

Protesting at the Council offices

Robert Gorrie and Lynne Featherstone with protestors outside Haringey Civic CentreYesterday saw big, big demonstration outside the Haringey Civic Centre by the group of Asian women and the workers from the ‘I Can Care’ charity. Tonight there was to be a Haringey Labour Cabinet meeting to decide (or rather rubberstamp more likely) the proposal to sell the Civic Centre (supposedly for lots of dosh) and move to Woodside House.

Well – in terms of selling the Civic Centre – one might think that choosing the moment of financial downturn that this country is experiencing means the price ain’t exactly going to be the best.

But we do need loads more social housing and affordable rentals – and if they could get a good price; if they have looked at alternatives; if their business plan is spot on – then worth considering. However, the move to Woodside House, not only displaces this I Can Care charity – who work with mainly Asian women to teach them English, computer skills and movement classes – but will cost a fortune. Estimates are being thrown around at £12 million.

Question to local people: Do you think that Haringey Council should spend £12 million on a new council chamber for Members to meet in and a registry office?. Or is there something else you think on which that money could be usefully spent?

It’s a no-brainer. Councillors could meet in Bernie Grant Centre or there’s a dilapidated council chamber still at Hornsey Town Hall or any one of a number of meeting places in the borough. It would be great anyway – and symbolic – if the councillors came out of a building and held their Full Council meeting in various parts of the borough. And we would save a fortune.

In terms of meeting rooms and offices – well the Council took on River Park House a few years ago – a massive office block – so it really is just a replacement for the council chamber and a registry office.

Now – as to the way they have moved on this – disgraceful. Despite both myself and Robert Gorrie (Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Haringey Council) writing to Labour Leader George Meehan to ask about the process, the alternatives, the business plan and what they were doing about ‘I Can Care’ – no joy and no answer.

Although judging by the anger and rudeness George displayed as he sped past the demonstration on the steps of the Civic – he just wants to steamroller this through without ever consulting with anyone. You know – whatever you think about the proposals – to not engage, not to have the civility to talk to the current tenants of the building – is just typical of why people hate Haringey Council.

And – to add insult to injury – ‘I Can Care’ have another couple of years to go on their lease. They have poured over £100,000 into the little side building to make it nice for those who come there to learn, and George Meehan apparently offered £1,000 if they would leave – presumably quietly. You couldn’t make it up!

Civic Centre plans misdirected say Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats joined a protest against the lack of consultation over plans to relocate Haringey’s Civic Centre. Over 100 people from ‘I Can Care’ massed outside Haringey’s Civic Centre in Wood Green before the Haringey Council cabinet meeting.

‘I Can Care’, a charity that gives welfare advice and provides computer, yoga and English classes for elderly Asian residents, will be forced to leave their premises in Woodside House under Haringey Council plans to relocate the Civic Centre.

The decision to transfer civic functions to a new £12 million facility in Woodside House was agreed by the Labour cabinet. Local Liberal Democrats have branded the multi-million pound plans to relocate Haringey’s main civic building as unnecessary, providing little benefit to local residents, overlooking prime alternative sites and have called on Labour-run Haringey Council to reconsider their plans.

Cllr Robert Gorrie, Liberal Democrat leader, commented:

“Haringey Council has failed to involve residents in these plans or even consult groups currently using the site. I Can Care have invested significant amounts of their own money in the facilities. If the whole project is as sloppy as the initial consultation, it will be yet another Haringey Labour fiasco.

“I’m sure any resident in Haringey could come up with a better use of £12 million of their money than building a room for councillors to talk in, yet Haringey Council have not even considered asking.

“Haringey is blessed with an abundance of wonderful buildings that could be and have been used for civic functions – Tottenham Town Hall, Hornsey Town Hall, the Bernie Grant Centre, Alexandra Palace or the Irish Centre would all be fantastic venues.”

Lynne Featherstone MP added:

“Sadly the ‘I Can Care’ charity has come up against Haringey Labour’s ‘we don’t care’ attitude.In the current climate, Labour should be thinking about ways to reduce next year’s Council Tax bill not lavish unnecessary projects that will leave this special charity homeless.”

New civic centre might mean end for Asian charity

Fearing that a proposed relocation of the Civic Centre to their site will mean the end to their charity, Woodside House based ‘I Can Care’ last Friday invited Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr Robert Gorrie, leader of Haringey Liberal Democrats, along to see some of their amazing local work.

The charity, which gives welfare advice and does computer, yoga and English classes for elderly Asian residents, only found out about the Labour-led council’s plans to move to Woodside House from a press release. Ms Featherstone is now writing to Haringey Council to ask what measures they are taking to ensure the future of I Can Care .

Lynne Featherstone comments:

“It’s shocking that Haringey Council has publicly announced this planned move to Woodside House without even mentioning it to ‘I Can Care’. There’s been no assurance from Haringey Council, no consultation, not even a phone call. That’s not what I call democratic!”

Robert Gorrie adds:

“Haringey Council’s lack of respect for this vibrant and well supported community group is as unacceptable as is the lack of clarity on how the Council have come to the view that Woodside House is a suitable location for a new Council Chamber. Have they asked residents whether this is a good use of tax payer’s money?”

Popular classes under threat

Lynne Featherstone and Robert Gorrie at Woodside HouseOff to Woodside House yesterday where I meet a huge class of Asian ladies doing exercise. As you can see from the photo – very colourful and very determined that Haringey’s Labour Council are not simply going to remove their vital facility without a fight!

Woodside House is the proposed target for Haringey to redevelop into a new Civic Centre for the Council (with the idea of selling off the current one). That is why Cllr Robert Gorrie, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Council group, and myself have come to see what’s what.

Thus far – the Council (Labour) have not been able to answer any questions as to why this site, what criteria, what consequences, were alternatives looked at – nothing. Nada! Hopeless as usual. And with the vital Woodside Luncheon Club under threat as well as the exercise classes – not to mention the building that has been done up to provide English lessons, computer skills etc – Haringey Labour are really asking for trouble! And I will almost certainly be happy to give it to them. No consultation. No discussion. No investigation. No nothing. Bastards!