Council accused of injustice as Twyford library work halted
Wokingham Borough Council has been charged with favoritism and injustice over the shutdown of Twyford Library.
The charges were brought by Councilor Clive Jones, the opposition leader on the council, following the halt of a project to house the Twyford Library collection inside the Old Polehampton building Boys School.
The shutdown of the project was announced at the board’s executive committee meeting on Thursday, September 30.
The executive committee was to continue to fund the relocation of the library to the boys’ school building and enter into a lease so that renovations inside the building could take place.
READ MORE: Anger as Wokingham taxi fee freeze offer is crushed
But the lease decision was put on hold due to a “recent and rapid increase in construction costs” according to Cllr John Halsall, the head of the council (Tory, Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe).
Now Cllr Jones (Liberal Democrats, Hawkedon) has asked the council to state how much the relocation and modernization project will actually cost.
Cllr Jones said, “We asked what the original quote was and what was the revised quote.
“We are told that the cost of lumber and building materials has increased, so there is a substantial increase in the cost of the library project.
“But the cost of wood has dropped to where it was a few months ago.
“It’s not just me saying this, Professor David Blanchflower, former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, said the same thing.”
He then accused the ruling Tories of unfairly shutting down the library project as millions were invested to regenerate Wokingham town center, arguing that it is unfair that ‘£ 150million’ was spent for Wokingham town center as the library project stalled.
Cllr Jones said: ‘The council has spent £ 150million on Wokingham town center which looks better than before, but £ 150million over five to six years is a huge amount. money, then they’re going to take out the Twyford library. project.
“They say ‘we have to put this on hold indefinitely.’ I think we have to see how much they’ve increased by.
“Are all parts of the borough going to be treated fairly? And what else is going to be put on hold and canceled? ”
The Twyford Library is currently located in a harbor cabin at Polehampton Close, across the road to the Old Polehampton Boys School building. The long term plan is to relocate the collection to the boys’ school building.
However, for the relocation to take place, significant work is required inside the building, including installing a heating system and insulating the roof and walls so that users and staff library can use the building in comfort, and make the building wheelchair accessible. .
The library project is the brainchild of the Polehampton Trust, which owns the boys’ school building.
Although the project is run by the trust, he does not have the funding to pay for the improvements, which is why he requested financial support from the Wokingham Borough Council.
The entire project was originally valued at £ 716,065, however, the council’s executive committee effectively halted the project due to the rising cost of materials.
READ MORE: 2,500 massive houses could be built in Twyford
In response to complaints from Cllr Jones, a city councilor rejected the claimed figure of ‘£ 150million’ for the regeneration of Wokingham town center and argued that the regeneration and modernization of the library were two very important projects. different.
Cllr Bill Soane (Conservative, Loddon), Executive Member for Neighborhoods and Communities, said: “The works in Wokingham town center were part of the critical infrastructure required to support the more than 4,000 new homes and apartments under construction in the region. outskirts of town.
“The regeneration was delivered as a self-funded project, with the work paid for by income from the sale of houses built on the site and ongoing commercial rents, rather than depending on taxpayer funds.
“Unfortunately, 100% self-financing is not a model we can use for Twyford library upgrades as there is no possibility of offsetting costs with residential development on the site and therefore borrowing. audiences will be needed.
“The impact of managing the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as rapidly rising costs in areas such as social care, energy and general construction costs, mean we need to adopt taking a prudent approach to how we spend public funds and making sure we get the best value from our resources. .
“As with many of our planned capital projects, we made the decision to suspend work when costs increased to give us time to review the situation and consider options.
“As a board, we remain committed to ensuring our residents have the high quality facilities they need and, as noted at the executive meeting, we remain supportive of the principle of the new Twyford Library.
“Regarding the regeneration of Wokingham, we do not recognize the numbers provided.
“In total, the work at Peach Place, Elms Field and Carnival will cost £ 125million.
READ MORE: Details of Wokingham’s domestic violence strategy revealed
“Profit from residential sales is used to offset this cost, leaving us with a final debt of £ 52million on a business asset worth £ 96million.
“While this can be sold for a one-time profit, our intention is to hold onto the asset as it generates approximately £ 2.8million in excess income per year from rents which we can use to fund essential services and projects in the borough for the years to come. ”