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Appeal to MP Greg Mulholland in Civic Centre row
Otley Town Council is urging an MP to work with it on securing the future of the Civic Centre, instead of “willing it to fail”.
The council’s controlling Labour group has blasted Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem, Leeds North West) for “jeopardising” attempts to re-open the building by speaking out about ongoing negotiations.
Last week Mr Mulholland claimed those talks, with a public sector organisation which is currently the only prospective tenant, were set to fail, leaving the whole refurbishment attempt “in tatters”.
Leeds City Council however, which owns the building, insists discussions are continuing.
Town council leader Councillor John Eveleigh (Lab, Ashfield) now claims the MP’s intervention could threaten the whole project.
He said: “Mr Mulholland’s recent outbursts have been a bit like a bull in a china shop. The civic centre project is in a delicate stage of development and our MP unfortunately seems to be doing everything he can to ensure it fails. As Leeds made clear, negotiations with a potential tenant are on track but they could be derailed if we do not proceed with care.
“The last thing Otley wants is for this organisation to pull out because of political squabbling.
“So, once again, I would like to extend the offer I made in a recent letter to Mr Mulholland and ask if he will meet us for a discussion.”
Mr Mulholland, though, has repeated his belief that the public sector organisation concerned is now “very unlikely” to move in.
He said: “I will work with anyone, but we need to start with honesty both about the reality of the lack of progress and that the town can’t afford the civic centre and a separate office – the new Information Centre the council will be based in, on a ten year lease, that will cost more than £30,000 a year for the town council.
“I wrote to all 20 councillors in January to make clear we should work together and agree that, to make the refurbishment realistic, the town council committed to re-occupying the civic centre. I was therefore dismayed when the Labour group rejected this and decided the council would not move back to be the essential, main tenant that the rest of the usage could be built around.
“I want the civic centre refurbishment to progress, but this is in jeopardy as a result of the decision taken by Labour.”
Councillor Sand Lay (Lib Dem, Danefield) added: “I have also been told that the only potential tenant is now unlikely to move in for a number of reasons. Therefore for Labour to suggest that negotiations are at an advanced stage is just not true.”
The town council, meanwhile, has acknowledged that producing a sustainable business plan to bring in about £120,000, to cover the estimated annual costs of a refurbished civic centre, remains its biggest challenge.
Councillor Carl Morris (Lab, Manor) said Mr Mulholland should be helping that effort.
He said: “We are asking Mr Mulholland to follow the example of our Lib Dem Town Mayor, Mary Vickers, who has shown great political character by working with us on our flagship project to open a community resource centre.
“We’re willing to work with anybody in order to get things done - I hope Mr Mulholland can demonstrate he is too.”