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Steve's Speech to the town council's decisive meeting

(November 22, 2010)

Councillors voted 6 - 0 with two abstentions (cllrs Fryer and March) to arrange to borrow up to half a million pounds from the Public Works Loans Board to fund their revised plans for the Assembly Rooms. These plans do not involve them moving their HQ there from Dewey House .

Madam Mayor

'You may think that I come along to these meetings purely to snipe from the sidelines but that is not the case as the evidence shows.


 On issues such as Waitrose, Dents, improving the look of the town by planting trees, WETS, the much improved Christmas Switch-on, fighting the vandalism planned by Persimmon in Victoria Road and Car Parking charges Paul Macdonald and I have been taking your side and urging our readers to get behind you via our website.


That cannot be the case for the Assembly Rooms as we have major concerns about any proposals that cause the town to be in debt to such an extent for such a long period.


Yet we must find a way forward for the Assembly Rooms as we know that we will need that building in the future as our town’s very elderly population expands and brings its own demands.


The inclusion of Wiltshire Council in the calculations is welcome but we need to get others on board, we need more partners and we need some joined up thinking.


Just easy one example to explain what I mean – why not locate the adult disabled hygiene facility in the same place as the town’s shopmobility scooters – doesn’t that make sense? At the moment the new facility is going to be put into the Assembly Rooms but the buggies are half a mile away in the Information building.


Your lack of a business plan and a business case for a building which is leaking money at the rate of £2,000 a week is breathtaking. (Note This sum will be addressed in a later hot topic)


In little over two years’ time, which will be mid term-for your ruling party, we may well find that a completely different band of people will be sitting in your seats following elections.

If I am one of those people I don’t want to spend precious time and energy clearing up the financial mess left by predecessors.


If the Assembly Hall is still leaching away cash at a rate of £2,000 a week it will be closed and mothballed until others are brought in to assist in funding – charities such as Age UK, the Macular Society, BHF, the Alzheimers Society et al will all need to play a greater role in townsfolks’ lives in future and why not get them to defray the cost by bringing them on board?


A further option would be to have the Assembly Rooms run by a management committee with charitable status. Community First would help you with this just as they assisted Market Lavington with their plans to build and operate a highly successful hall in 2007. Such a model could work here.


Alternatively, after making good the structure and paying for the essential repairs we   could sign over the whole building to WCR for £1 to run it as their HQ and as a community facility – if they are so keen on being in their current home (although they were planning to desert when Kingdown School were playing ball).


If Wiltshire Council wants the building for a hub why not sell it back to them for £1?


Finally –your consultation. Cllr Humprhies is correct in saying that the sample size obtained from your consultation is large enough to provide you with a 95 per cent confidence interval regarding its validity – but that depends on the questions asked. Your consultation was designed to guide the participants along a certain path, would not meet the stringent requirement of social scientists, was an insult to anyone with any modicum of intelligence and risible to any person trained in any form of social science statistics – it was worthless and you wasted our money! 


The only sensible choice for you to make today is to do the minimum to maintain the building in an operational state.'

OPPOSITION forces will be meeting again on Saturday to look at how they can continue to argue their case in a constructive manner.

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