Meanwhile on Planet Babergh – Angel Court

BureaucracyI recently had a call from a constituent asking what was happening to Angel Court in Hadleigh. Angel Court was formerly a residential care home and subsequently became a temporary housing unit and more recently Suffolk County Council sold it to Babergh District Council. My usual sources at Babergh tell me that they are unable to throw any light on the situation – so the question remains why and what do Babergh intend to do with the property? I have looked over the agendas and minutes of Babergh’s Strategy Committee and I can only surmise that the authority to acquire the property was contained in their meeting of  4th February. The minutes record that The Committee  noted the action taken by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Chairman of the Committee, as set out in Paper R95. Paper R95 was discussed without the public being present as it was  likely that there would be the disclosure of exempt information. Moreover the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed  the public interest in disclosing the information.
So what are the options for the property?

  • Turn it into a hotel? (After all Babergh is accruing an investment fund of £25 million – Paper R83)
  • Turn it into housing – since there is a constant demand for commercial or social housing.
  • Turn it into a state of the art e-commerce entrepreneurial centre.
  • Turn it into a new set of offices, thereby vacating Corks Lane and possibly leading to the consolidation of yet more services into Mid Suffolk’s offices at Needham Market.

You can guess where my suspicions lie. If it was good news why the secrecy. Once again the disinfectant of transparency is needed to dispel suspicions that the people of Hadleigh are to receive an unpleasant surprise. Meanwhile I have lodged a Freedom of Information Request to see if we can get some light on the subject.

Corks Lane

Flag by BaberghLast year the Leader of Babergh District Council indicated that the future of Corks Lane would be decided by the post May 2007 administration. As we know, the Conservatives romped home thirty one seats out of forty three thus celebrating being in full control for the first time since 1974.
On 11th May the Leader of the Council was quoted as saying that the new regime would press ahead with a joint review of Babergh’s headquarters in Hadleigh and Mid Suffolk’s in Needham Market.
And then a period of silence ensued until early September when Babergh decided that it would produce:
a plan for our short-term accommodation usage which will be implemented over the next six months that will rationalise the usage of our existing accommodation, build greater integration and co-location of teams across the two sites and develop some “spokes” within our market towns.
an accommodation strategy (and the necessary complementary workforce development strategy) that is cognisant of and flexible enough to reflect emerging local and national policies and public service reforms.
So, where was the driving force? Certainly it doesn’t appear to be in the controlling party. There was no indication of hitting the ground running. After all this deliberation, discussion and decision making, it definitely looks like a case of the mountain belching and bringing forth a mouse.
What’s being overlooked is the potential for saving ₤1,000,000 a year in accommodation costs if Babergh’s and Mid Suffolk’s operations are concentrated in Corks Lane. To ignore such a savings opportunity is disgraceful and not what the residents of Babergh expect and deserve. Are Mid Suffolk resisting the logical conclusion of the full merger which they voted for in 2011?
Or will the devolution of powers into a Suffolk/Norfolk powerhouse result in the District Councils becoming irrelevant and ultimately being disbanded with their powers and responsibilities being absorbed and redistributed elsewhere?
Only time will tell, but I look forward to 2016 when hopefully we will be seeing the plans and strategies and stop asking ourselves what’s taking so long?

Old Models – Poor Directions

Yesterday’s E.A.D.T., published the following letter:

New council H.Q. in Hadleigh will achieve the most savings

???????????????????????????????It’s all very well for the Leader of Babergh District Council to say that it is unlikely for Babergh’s and Mid Suffolk’s headquarters to be based in Hadleigh (EADT 25th October) – but this is precisely the direction indicated by the consultant’s report. Locating the main activities in Hadleigh and disposing of surplus sites and space will achieve a 50% reduction in costs. Relocating activities to the County’s building in Ipswich will achieve savings between 11% and 13%. Putting a new hub in the Ipswich fringe will only yield a 32% saving. The hub and spokes business and governance model is seductively simple but only suitable for banks, building societies and estate agents. It is recipe for senior management to distance themselves from the reality of the everyday lives in the areas they are supposed to be managing and directing. This is not a desirable way forward. Instead, both councils should focus on how value for money can be delivered to the residents because if monies are not spent wisely council taxes will rise.
Yours faithfully,
Brian Riley
District Councillor – Hadleigh North
County Councillor – Hadleigh

So far reaction has been favourable