Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Confident Council Meeting - Ashfield, Haigh Hall and Libraries

So last night I attended the Confident Council meeting, whatever that name means. Many people ask and I have no clue, it’s just some subliminal nonsense that is meant for some stupid marketing ploy. On the agenda was Wigan and leisure Trust (WLCT). This organisation is historical a company that was set up by Wigan Council to pay less tax and they have the cheek to call celebrity’s that use tax loop holes when they do it themselves and have done for years.
Moving on the Council initially only wanted to talk and discuss Library’s and Haigh Hall. Two great topics that need discussing but given that the organisation, (WLCT), look after all leisure and open spaces! Radar should be picking up as Ashfield is an open space that is looked after by (WLCT).

On the first issue of Library’s it was important to use an example that I have was recently when I was signing out of the Library on a Saturday Morning a father came in with his daughter who was about 5 or 6. He encouraged her to approach the lady assistant and ask if they had any books on Rupert the Bear. The librarian said that they don’t have any of those books in. The disappointment on that little girl was so heart wrenching. Her dad asked if she wanted to look for another book, which she didn’t and they left. It can be hard enough to get children to read but when they are keen like this then we should be able to help. If it was a book that no one has heard of, fair enough but these are children’s classic. We have asked if we can buy the Library a set of the Children’s Classic. We were told we couldn’t because if we did they would go to any Library. As Cllr’s we wanted the Library to have a set of classic and the Council don’t allow this – crazy!

Haigh Hall
So the Council announced in the paper that Haigh Hall was going to be leased to a Hotel Chain and it will be turned into a 30 bedroom Hotel. The Council said it was a £30 Million deal. People thought this how much the investment would cost. But this is the figure is how much the Council will be brought back in to the local economy. They don’t say how many years this figure would take to happen, so for me there’s the first question.
The Council say this is a great deal. The cost to Wigan Taxpayers is about 50/50 with the hotel chain. This is about £5m - £6m. The second question is of course the private sector does not want to have 100% of the risk but does 50/50 represent a fair deal for both? Second question! Next is how long will the lease be for the hotel group? Another way is how long will they have the hotel for? The Council say this has not been worked out. So how on earth can a deal be good and considered to be fair when a crucial element like term of lease has not been agreed. If it is for 1 year then we are putting a lot of risk in because what happens after a year. But if the term is for 100 years then that would be too long and we would not be getting value for money. So you can see why it is crucial that this is answered. The Council must know approximate what length they are considering. I hear in the corridors of power is 5 – 10 years that are being looked at. Yes the Council need to have space and items would need to be kept confidential for commercial reasons and so they don’t hinder negotiations, however elected members from all parties need to be kept informed. But the Council refuse to recognise the democracy system that we have in this country, This should change!
One thing that I am worried about is that the Hotel chain will want to have as much as possible. One  area that they can manage out Wigan Residents is to change the pricing on the Car Park. The Council confirmed last night that pricing is being looked at and some areas will be reserved for the Hotel and also they could be a price for a short stay and a price for a long stay. If the price is to high then people will simply not go and the Hotel gets a better deal. This is a real issue for the Council to stop people going without saying you are not allowed in.
I have asked for all the details that the Council has on this so I am able to see if this is a fair deal for the people of Standish, that I represent, and also the other residents of Wigan too. This could be a good and fair deal but we need to know and understand it for ourselves.
Another example that the Council does not recognise the democracy system that we have in this system is that I have heard Labour Cllr’s had a private meeting on this issue and were told about it. I hear that some opposition Cllrs heard a bit about it but those that do scrutinise and challenge were simply left out.

 OK so here we are at a topic close to not only my heart but most of the residents of Standish. The situation is that in 2012 Persimmon homes asked to move the football pitches to the Gold Course. Then they could build houses on Ashfield. The Council have since tried to retract all the information that is openly available in the public. The worry here is the Council want ALL sites to be self-funding so they do not cost the Council money. They also recognise that some parks may suffer. If the Council want to try and tell us a lie is here. They know that Standish won’t and can’t have and accommodate two large parks, Ashfield and the new development at the Golf course. So one of them should and has to go. If the council allowed and asked Persimmon Homes to forget the football pitches at the Golf Course I maybe I will then start to believe them that they don’t want the pitches at Ashfield for houses.  
What is important to understand is that there is a field in Bryn that has Village Green Status on it. I asked with the Council to a model of zero subsidiaries to parks how that park will work in Bryn. The Council simply didn’t have the answer. An answer that needs to be answered!

As you can tell this is just a snippet of the meeting but some important points that as Cllrs we need to address for residents.

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