Monday 13 February 2023

Brent Lib Dems: 'Impossible to justify £1.96m spend' on Brent Civic Centre that 'could bring Council into disrepute'

 'Reach for the book' - the 'concept' plan to replace the spiral straircase


The Liberal Democrat Group on Brent Council have expressed doubts about the Council’s decision to spend £2m on the £100m 10 years old Brent Civic Centre.


They said:


The Cabinet decision to spend an excessive sum of £1.96 million on upgrades to Brent Civic Centre, at a time when services provided by the local authority continue to be reduced, is wrong and unjustified.


As a service-based organisation, Brent Council should always be putting the needs of residents first and we do not believe that committing this large amount of money on ‘Improving the Customer Experience’ at the Civic Centre is a priority for our residents. Most residents are concerned about crumbling and dangerous local roads and pavements, increased rubbish being dumped in our area, and most significantly the huge financial pressures faced due to the Cost-of-Living crisis, compounded by upcoming additional pressures like the increase in Council Tax and other charges.


It is difficult to justify spending £1.96 on the Civic Centre building, when there are so many other areas the Council should be prioritising at this time. 


The Report makes no mention of the number of visitors to the Civic Centre, what the numbers the current arrangements can cope with and what the numbers the redesign will be able to accommodate, after spending £1.96 million. Why?


The Report also makes claims about savings without specifying what these savings will be.


Brent Civic Centre is barely 10 years old. We find it incredible that the Cabinet have been able to identify such a large amount of money for a redesign, whilst simultaneously claiming shortfalls in the budget exist, which impact the delivery of services and upkeep of our wards.


It is accepted by many that, particularly post pandemic, the Civic Centre is not being used to full capacity. Much of the vast space available for use is not being utilised as intended, as many Council Officers are able to do their work remotely and from home. Whilst the Report refers mostly to the customer areas of the Civic Centre, we believe that a discussion now needs to also begin about the continued use of the Civic Centre as a whole, given the costs involved for its upkeep, and the potential for considerable revenue to be generated if it is used in different ways.


The Report focuses on the face-to-face public spaces in the Civic Centre as being in need of a redesign. We do not believe that enough effort has been made to adapt, at much lesser cost, the existing spaces for ‘customers’ who come to the building seeking support.


We believe that further work needs to take place to understand alternative, less costly action to ensure a better ‘Customer Experience’ at Brent Civic Centre. We acknowledge that some consultation has been done that has led to the decision to produce this Report, however we are sceptical that enough people’s views were taken into account and that a wide range of views were considered in preparation for this Report.


As Councillors often in the Civic Centre, we recognise the waste of space in the mezzanine area. This space should be used more efficiently, as noted in the Report, however, we see no need for expansive works to improve it.


The Report refers to the need to create private more secluded areas for ‘customers’ (residents) to have meetings and discussions with Council Officers. There is a great deal of empty space on the ground floor and the first floor that could quite easily be turned into private spaces, as is required.


There is also an opportunity to create a secondary reception area on the left side of the ground floor, where currently ‘Registrations’ take place. We see no problem in dual purpose use of that side of the ground floor.


As to the issues with heating in the building, the current plan seems extravagant and unnecessary. We want to see officers explore alternative options to regulate the heat in the Civic Centre, possibly by installation of additional artificial walls.


Our view is that better use can be made of existing Hub centres across the borough, in order to provide a service to our residents out in the community. The money agreed by Cabinet to spend on redesign of the Civic Centre, can be better used to improve existing services that are more likely to directly assist residents with their needs.


Fundamentally, we believe it is impossible to justify the £1.96 million spend as agreed by Cabinet. It is the wrong time, the wrong look and could bring this Council into disrepute if this goes ahead.


Our residents want to see their Council focus on the issues that matter to them and for the vast majority that will never step foot in the Civic Centre, this decision will have no positive impact.




Anonymous said...

Don't remember seeing this £2m extravagance in the Labour manifesto! It sounds MOnsterous BUTT don't worry as the money is coming from residents!!

Anonymous said...

The civic centre is in the wrong place - it's a nightmare to get to particularly on event days when buses are diverted and traffic is at a standstill.

It say's you can hold 3 weddings there all at a time there but how can you plan a wedding there when last minute events get added to the stadium schedule creating issues with travel, parking and accommodation.

There should be hubs in our town centres where residents can easily talk to Brent Council officers - with today's technology they can access council systems and databases remotely and it would help them see the issues residents face on a daily basis.

David Walton said...

Granville Hall in South Kilburn, 2018 the GLA funded a hole (staircase) in the middle of its giant floor space and cubicles behind a security door as its 'improvement', now its being demolished Brent brownfield registered since 2022.

A communal main hall is 'surplus' in this 30,000 population by 2041 car free active travel Brent neighbourhood?

OSTT- One staircase tower thinking.

Anonymous said...

There is a community hub in every Ward .... it is called a School. Notwithstanding the current schools funding mechanism, the £2M may better be used to enable clusters of schools to act as spokes to the Civic hub. Open Doors, Raise Standards (in all directions)

David Walton said...

Logical good idea anon, but for example South Kilburn is all about monetise schools as brownfield land.....a look a Brent brownfield register is informative.

'Impossible to justify...' we have to all remember its business grey growth zoning Brent we are talking about here. Where a car-free, no gardens, 30,000 plus population new 'estate' is to have no active travel routes infrastructure or strong protected and invested green public open spaces 2041.This is what happens when the growth zone final product is business only-led.

Brent Civic needs to listen less to remediation business-led growth and make sure that these new buildings within a new building are NOT built of hyper flammable /need to be used somewhere materials. A large stage building inside St Marks, St Johns Wood grade 1 listed church burnt the whole building down recently, too fast to fire fight. Grenfell interiors plc.

Sickly business only captured Brent needs to start listen to advice independent of business-led if it is not to roaring 2020's overload on its liabilities and become instead better able to equitably meet its diverse statutory duties to all of its taxpayers. A Forward Together, rather than Forwards and Backwards (Progress and Regress) zones Brent.

Martin Francis said...

Interesting idea re schools. I have long-advocated 'Connects' type meetings in primary schools which often have Parent Forums attracting far more people than Connects Meetings and an entirely different profile. Parents of young children are unable to attend evening Connects meetings but can stay at school after they have dropped children off to engage on local issues.

Paul Lorber said...

The Council Report justifying the spend of £1.96 million is full of buzz words, jargon, platitudes but very little substance that stands up to scrutiny.

It mentions unidentified future savings without in any way explaining how these would be achieved.

There is a comment about lack of direction signs to help visitors to find the right location and service.

That is of course because wrong people are making wrong decisions. Why for example was it necessary to spend over £60,000 on 4 TV screens in virtually the same area on the ground floor repeating exactly the same message on each of the screens?

Any one with common sense would have spent far less money on proper signage first rather than wasting local taxpayers money in the way the did. Now they want to waste even more.

Anonymous said...

Appalling!!! Whatever happened to The hologram – called Shanice – the first virtual assistant Brent bought for thousands in 2013?? Was that money well spent?

Martin Francis said...

Isn't she a new councillor now? Possibly in the Cabinet.

Anonymous said...

Amen !

Anonymous said...

Fix neasden or church end.

Anonymous said...

they are so complacent and pompus and have the cheek to blame torie cuts to why they cant make streets materially safer, support residents with cost of living and stop these horrible private developers bulldozing our communities in the name of "regeneration" when all the flats are sold to chinese investors and stay empty and our public services are non existent. they should be ashamed and we all need to ambush the civic centre if this goes ahead!