Otley Town Council lambasted for its 'unprecedented' spending

Wharfedale Observer: Councillor Jim Spencer Councillor Jim Spencer

“Profligate spending on an unprecedented scale” – that is how Otley's Liberal Democrats branded a new Town Council budget that will see the local levy increase by 14.5 per cent.

The rise means people in most Band D households will pay just over £8 a year more on the precept for 2013 to 2014.

The £316,500 budget includes plans to create a new information centre and council base, and to rebuild and staff the frequently vandalised toilets on Orchard Gate.

Both initiatives were attacked by Lib Dem councillors at Monday's policy and resources committee meeting.

Councillor Jim Spencer, who proposed an unsuccessful alternative motion to freeze the precept, said: “The council reduced the precept last year because, morally, we felt we had no choice due to the hardship people were facing.

“This year things are worse, but the budget proposes to increase the precept to the highest level ever. We think this is profligate spending and, for Otley, on an unprecedented scale.

“We're talking about spending money on offices and toilets we don't own, while gambling on an income of £16,000 – Labour's estimate of how much the revamped toilets will make – which we think is unlikely.”

Labour insists the information centre will provide a disabled accessible, town centre hub where – working with other organisations – all kinds of services can be provided.

The upgrading and maintenance of the toilets is expected to cost £38,000 a year, which includes a series of £9,000 Public Works Loan Board repayments, while £50,000 has been set aside to upgrade the information centre building, also on Orchard Gate.

Labour leader Councillor John said: “This is about delivering services and the council's position in terms of delivering them.

“I'm astounded the Lib Dems are proposing a precept freeze when we're currently in offices that are, by any standard, unsatisfactory, not disabled friendly and with no confidentiality.

“Times are hard but let's get this into some sort of perspective, we’re talking about £8 or so a year.”

Town mayor Councillor Mary Vickers, despite voting against the budget, said afterwards: “Residents need somewhere they can access information and meet other organisations, including councillors, to be able to discuss any problems.

“The Labour council has come up with a solution – a new centre, larger than the present office and next to the bus station.

“We need to move forward, sometimes we need to take risks, and I hope Labour can make it work. They deserve our support.”

The council's only Independent member, Councillor Nigel Francis – who could not attend on Monday – agreed.

He said: “I would have supported this. A 14 per cent rise sounds a lot but you've got to remember we're working with low figures here.

“If we can improve our offices and put things in there that will benefit people, and provide decent toilets we've got to have, it will be a step forward.”

Comments (5)

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5:56pm Fri 25 Jan 13

sweetlady says...

I don’t agree with this at all in Otley the council had a building which was large enough , it had room's you could go in to talk privately . Was disabled friendly. Not far from the bus station and close to the shop's but is standing empty yet another building in otley that will be an eye sore. People are still experiencing hardship, and to spend that amount on toilets when if the council had kept them maintained would not need to be repaired at this scale. Thank you to some of the Lib Dem councillors for trying to help local people and understanding what the people of Otley are about.
I don’t agree with this at all in Otley the council had a building which was large enough , it had room's you could go in to talk privately . Was disabled friendly. Not far from the bus station and close to the shop's but is standing empty yet another building in otley that will be an eye sore. People are still experiencing hardship, and to spend that amount on toilets when if the council had kept them maintained would not need to be repaired at this scale. Thank you to some of the Lib Dem councillors for trying to help local people and understanding what the people of Otley are about. sweetlady

6:04pm Sat 26 Jan 13

Otley resident says...

What a bloody cheek. Which party took on the toilets in the first place, when it wasn't their responsibility?

The responsibility clearly was that of the centre owners who were delighted that the misguided fools running the council wanted to take on responsibilty of the toilets.

It would have been cheaper in the first instance to go to court to enforce the terms of the original lease.

Which party spent £28,000 on the original refurbishment when they were taken over?

Which party didn't do their homework and found that the original lease and deeds precluded anyone else but the Centre owners from operating the toilets.?

Which party then had to pay Leeds Council solicitors an undisclosed amount to change the terms of the original lease?

Which party then failed to spot a law precluding councils gating off the toilets to obtain entry money, resulting that for the past 4 years the residents of Otley have been paying for the upkeep of the toilets.

And I haven't even started on the Civic Centre yet . . . . . . .
What a bloody cheek. Which party took on the toilets in the first place, when it wasn't their responsibility? The responsibility clearly was that of the centre owners who were delighted that the misguided fools running the council wanted to take on responsibilty of the toilets. It would have been cheaper in the first instance to go to court to enforce the terms of the original lease. Which party spent £28,000 on the original refurbishment when they were taken over? Which party didn't do their homework and found that the original lease and deeds precluded anyone else but the Centre owners from operating the toilets.? Which party then had to pay Leeds Council solicitors an undisclosed amount to change the terms of the original lease? Which party then failed to spot a law precluding councils gating off the toilets to obtain entry money, resulting that for the past 4 years the residents of Otley have been paying for the upkeep of the toilets. And I haven't even started on the Civic Centre yet . . . . . . . Otley resident

6:05pm Sat 26 Jan 13

Otley resident says...

. . . but don't worry, its not their money.
. . . but don't worry, its not their money. Otley resident

8:51am Sun 27 Jan 13

mrshlp says...

My big issue with this is that they will be taking over a prime retail unit which could be used by a business moving into the town. Yes for the minute it's sat empty but recent times have seen new businesses in the town.

Why on earth the town council can't work with leeds city council and rent the old one stop shop office I don't know. presumably it's sitting there empty and we're paying for it?

As for the civic centre the issue is not one party or another although I can't help but think it shouldn't have been closed when it was. It's crippling community groups as there is a lack of affordable rooms to hire.
My big issue with this is that they will be taking over a prime retail unit which could be used by a business moving into the town. Yes for the minute it's sat empty but recent times have seen new businesses in the town. Why on earth the town council can't work with leeds city council and rent the old one stop shop office I don't know. presumably it's sitting there empty and we're paying for it? As for the civic centre the issue is not one party or another although I can't help but think it shouldn't have been closed when it was. It's crippling community groups as there is a lack of affordable rooms to hire. mrshlp

8:53am Sun 27 Jan 13

mrshlp says...

My big issue with this is that they will be taking over a prime retail unit which could be used by a business moving into the town. Yes for the minute it's sat empty but recent times have seen new businesses in the town.

Why on earth the town council can't work with leeds city council and rent the old one stop shop office I don't know. presumably it's sitting there empty and we're paying for it?

As for the civic centre the issue is not one party or another although I can't help but think it shouldn't have been closed when it was. It's crippling community groups as there is a lack of affordable rooms to hire.
My big issue with this is that they will be taking over a prime retail unit which could be used by a business moving into the town. Yes for the minute it's sat empty but recent times have seen new businesses in the town. Why on earth the town council can't work with leeds city council and rent the old one stop shop office I don't know. presumably it's sitting there empty and we're paying for it? As for the civic centre the issue is not one party or another although I can't help but think it shouldn't have been closed when it was. It's crippling community groups as there is a lack of affordable rooms to hire. mrshlp

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