Redditch Library relocation set to go ahead as contracts wait to be signed - The Redditch Standard

Redditch Library relocation set to go ahead as contracts wait to be signed

Redditch Editorial 1st Mar, 2024 Updated: 1st Mar, 2024   0

THE DEAL to relocate Redditch Library looks all done and dusted with one contract already signed and another being completed at the end of this week.

The town’s Labour Group had always maintained it would reverse the decision if elected in May.

But it conceded this week that because of the position of the documents and a potential cost of reversing it ‘nothing much could be done’.

Labour leader, Coun Joe Baker, outlined the position at Monday’s budget meeting as he proposed an alternative financial plan for the year ahead.

The Labour Group would refurbish and repurpose the existing library building, turning it into a conference centre with catering, small business hubs, desks and for community use.

The controlling Conservative group’s plan has always been to bulldoze the building and replace it with a plaza for cafes, bars and restaurants.

Among Labour’s other proposals were the reintroduction of the Street Market and creating a craft centre at Forge Mill Visitor Centre.

Labour’s budget was defeated and the original financial plan voted through.

The rubber-stamped budget sees £72,000 allocated for the regeneration of the town, £45,000 for planning and environmental services and increasing council resources by £4million by 2027.

The document also outlines plans for investment in Arrow Valley Country Park and the refuse fleet, along with details of £40million being invested into existing and new housing stock over the next four years.

However, council tax will still rise 2.99 per cent in the year 2024/25.

Portfolio holder for finance and enabling, Coun Luke Court, said: “This budget reflects a robust position for the council going forward, including a projected surplus of £100k-a-year for the next three years and over £1million of funding reallocated to our general reserves.

“As a result, the council is budgeting for a council tax freeze next year to help residents with the cost-of-living, while also supporting our services.”

Coun Baker said Labour’s ‘fully-costed’ budget would leave the council’s finances in surplus and generate an income stream to be reinvested in the council and the borough’s assets.

He added the plan would have rejuvinated the town centre, enabling the community to enjoy a new vibrancy whilst encouraging new businesses to invest, benefiting the Redditch economy and promoting growth and prosperity.

‘Our way is the best way for the town’ – Council leader

Redditch Borough Council leader Matt Dormer said: “In its alternative budget, the Labour Group also offered the same council tax freeze for next year which we did – the only way it can do that is by backing the library move and their members know that.”

With regard to the contracts, Coun Dormer confirmed the one had been signed, the other one was due to be signed and the main one which finalises the library move would be completed and signed by the end of this month (March).

He also reiterated that any of the contracts could be reversed but to do so would incur a financial penalty for the council and, consequently, the taxpayer.

On Labour’s plan to refurbish the library and turn it into a community hub, Coun Dormer said there was asbestos on two of the floors which would need to be dealt with at an extra cost.

Redditch Borough Council was awarded £16.6million from the Government for three projects in the town which include the public realm (the plaza), the relocation of the library into the town hall community hub and the Digital Innovation Centre which is going on the now bulldozed police station.

Coun Dormer said the cash that was made available by the Government had certain stipulations about what it could be used for. Failure to meet that criteria would see the funding lost.

“The cash needs to be spent on improving the area which we think knocking down the library and creating the plaza does.

“It not only makes the area better for residents or shoppers, it also opens it out and will be beneficial to the Kingfisher Centre and the other businesses in the town.”


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