Town Council’s ‘new office build’ project under way

Construction of new offices for Bradley Stoke Town Council

Bradley Stoke Town Council’s controversial project to build itself a new £400k office is now well under way after excavators moved onto the site at the Jubilee Centre last month.

The new office, once completed, will replace premises that the Council currently rents at The Courtyard, within the Almondsbury Business Park in the north of the town.

The go-ahead for the new-build project was given in January last year, following a consultation exercise in which the public were asked to choose between three similar proposals based at the Jubilee Centre pitched against a fourth option of “continuing to rent office space”.

The decision to proceed with the project was secured via a narrow 6-4 vote, following which two of the Councillors who had voted against asked the Clerk to record in the minutes that they considered it to be “a misuse of public funds”.

The new office, for which planning permission was granted in September 2011, will provide 204sqm of internal space for seven members of staff (four full-time, three part-time).

The building will also provide a public, externally accessible, toilet facility for users of the children’s play park on the nearby Jubilee Green.

Current estimates for the cost of the project amount to £292k but the final cost to the Council is likely to be closer to £400k once consultants’ fees, in-house project management costs, moving expenses and loan interest charges are added on.

Prior to the building of the Willow Brook Centre, the Town Council had aspirations to relocate its office to the “new town centre”, where it would be more accessible to members of the public. Plans published by Tesco showed a ‘Council Drop-In Centre’ in one of the Town Square units and South Gloucestershire Council said it was looking into the possibility of sharing office space with the town Council. However, the idea was quietly dropped as the planning concept evolved.

A surprise announcement in September 2008 revealed that the Town Council had signed ‘heads of agreement’ terms to rent office space on the first floor of the Willow Brook Centre but a few months later it backed out of the deal, saying that it was investigating the possibility of adding a new first-floor extension to the Jubilee Centre. That idea was later scrapped when Councillors realised that it would put much of the Jubilee Centre out of service during construction work.

The public consultation on the ‘Town Council Office Location’, conducted from October to December 2010, attracted criticism from some quarters as it failed to mention the Willow Brook Centre as a candidate location. Responding to a question from a member of the public a Council meeting on 17th November 2010, Mayor Ben Walker insisted that the consultation’s ‘Option 3’ (“Continue to rent office space”) included the possibility of renting at the Willow Brook Centre but minutes of a previous meeting held on 21st July 2010 confirm that Council had decided that the only alternative to building/extending at the Jubilee Centre should be “Continuing to rent office space at our current location“.

Two of the four Councillors who voted against the new build project (Ernie Brown and Morgan Baynham, both Conservative) did not seek re-election at the May 2011 election, while a third, Jon Williams (Liberal Democrat), failed to get re-elected. The fourth opponent was Cllr Rob Jones (Conservative), Mayor at the time of the aborted proposal to move to the Willow Brook Centre in 2008.

For Cllr Tom Aditya, one of the ‘new face’ Councillors elected last year, the new building isn’t grand enough for a town the size of Bradley Stoke. At last May’s Planning Committee meeting, where the pre-submission plans were revealed, he questioned why they didn’t include a Council Chamber and Mayor’s Office. His appeal failed to gain support from his fellow Councillors, one of whom advised him: “as Conservatives, we are renowned for looking after [the taxpayer’s] money”. Councillors subsequently voted 6-1 in favour of the plans being submitted to South Gloucestershire Council.

Councillors have since agreed that up to £100k can be taken from unallocated reserves to pay for the new office, leaving up to £300k to be funded by a Public Works Loan over 10, 15 or 20 years.

According to an article in the recently distributed Town Council newsletter, building of the new office is expected to be completed by mid-July.

Construction of a new car park at the Jubilee Centre

Photo: Work to construct an extension to the Jubilee Centre car park, to replace parking spaces lost to the new office, got under way in January.

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  1. Absolutely disgraceful, conflict of interest springs to mind. I really urge the people of Bradley Stoke to turn up and vote these clowns off the council at the earliest opportunity.

  2. I’m sorry, but I think you’ll find that the residents of Bradley Stoke voted for “these clowns” only last May. We’re now stuck with them for another 3 years and 60 days…. and counting…

    I also agree with Richard, these councillors should be ashamed of themselves, especially when those of their own political influence consider it a “misuse of public funds”. Too many “personal conflicts of interest” and “closed” meetings if you ask me.

  3. Are they homeless – NO!

    Are there existing buildings that could be used in one of the local business parks or Willow Book Centre – YES!

    If they have the money and wanted to spend it, they should have sorted out the lack of high speed broadband.

  4. They really don’t get it do they…..

    This entire layer of petty, wasteful officialdom could be removed and nobody would either a) notice or b) bat an eyelid.

    PS is Jonboy the same person who South Glos Councils Standards Committee ruled
    – “failing to treat others with respect” and “bringing his office or authority into disrepute”
    – breaching the code of conduct by failing to declare a personal and prejudicial interest during a council decision which affected the financial interests of the SBCP.”

  5. How many unused units are there at the Willowbrook Centre?

    Why not use them, the one where Peacocks used to be is surely large enough. Why go to the expense of building from scratch?

  6. I find it disgusting that they are going to spend all that money for a new office when they could easily rent office space at the Willowbrook Centre.

  7. I believe the argument is that the interest on the loan needed for the new build is comparable with what is currently being paid in rent. Once the loan is paid off, there will be an annual cost saving.

    That said, I don’t recall being told in the consultation that cash reserves would be spent on this. That’s the bit I’m not happy about.

    If the Council has cash in the bank, built up over many years from tax receipts, I’d rather it be spent on something more essential.

  8. As one of the ‘clowns’ that supported this project perhaps I can correct some of the misconceptions shown here. The simple question was should we go on paying rent ad infinitum, forever, or do we bite the bullet and construct a permanent base. The rent on our current premises was circa £30K pa and while it is true that premisies at the Willow Brook would be marginally less expensive this is still a significant amount to pay annually.While the initial outlay for the new building will be substantial this project will over a number of years pay for itself. If your readers cannot understand this then I suggest a course on basic financial management might help. Regarding the project we have obtained a public works loan at very preferential rates and the reason we have utilised some reserves was to reduce the amount of the loan needed.

    Neither have we as reported in the Journal cut Youth Provision. This is at the same level as last year but rather than invest this in one single provider we have opened this up to a wider audience. Any bona fide group involved in youth provision can apply for funds, within total budgetary constraints.

    All this has been achieved against a backdrop of a freeze in the town Council Tax element ( the Precept) for the third year running and for which I believe the Council should be congratulated. This council is committed to best practice and achieving best value for money.

    While it is easy to sit on the sidelines carping I would add that the council is made up of extremely contientious individuals, unpaid, all volunteers, who give up their free time on a week by week basis to represent your interests. If you think you have better ideas you are welcome to attend any of our meetings to put your views forward.

    I think a lot more praise and less moaning please.

    Roger Avenin
    Chair of Finance Committee

  9. “I think a lot more praise and less moaning please.”

    I don’t think that’s a very appropriate attitude for an elected member of council to take with people who are genuinely questioning why – at a time of austerity – the council should be spending money in this way.

    While I agree with you logic on the move – and the ultimate save in rent – I don’t agree that this was the biggest priority in the the town to spend money on.

    And as to your point about people turning up to meetings and getting involved – the times I have been to meetings the public element has largely been ignored, shouted down several times, or mired in the bureaucracy of how the meetings work. The simple fact is, there’s hardly any two-way discussion between elected members when they adjourn meetings for public questions.

    Maybe, Roger, you’d like to think about how the bowls saga went? Or how Bradley Stoke STILL doesn’t have fast broadband? Or how the consultation over the street lights went? Or how you’ve been handing out vouchers to council staff when the rest of us are putting up with effective pay cuts?

    Before you pat yourself on the back too much about the tax freeze – Perhaps if you had cash in the bank you should have thought about CUTTING the precept to help hard-pressed families for a few years?

    I’m sure everyone is grateful that you and your colleagues put time in – but I think you need to think long and hard before you ask for praise, don’t you?


  10. In reply to Toxteth I think you have contradicted yourself in your first two sentences. You question why the Town Council should be ‘spending money in this way’ but in your next sentence you agree with the logic !! If this will save money in the long run what is wrong with this.

    I don’t know what meetings you attended but the public are always allowed 15 minutes to put their representatins forward and I have never been to any meeting where members of the public have been shouted down. Indeed in addition to putting your views forward at meetings you can also contact your local councillors through our website or speak to them at regular surgeries held monthly at the Willow Brook centre. If you want to contact me I promise not to shout !!

    Regarding your other comments after initial problems the Bowls Club is now a thriving concern with a contented membership. On the broadband issue we have made numerous representations as the editor of this journal will attest and have even involved our local MP in trying to resolve this. The street lighting issue was initially driven by South Glos but is one with which I agree. and is one which the majority of the public agree with. The potential savings for this are significant. The Shopping Vouchers for council staff were a one off, to reward hard pressed staff at a time to financial austerity.

    This council I believe is a well run institution and YES we do deserve praise.

    Roger Avenin

  11. Whilst I fully accept the logic of not renting, was it not possible to buy one of the many empty offices off Woodlands/Trench lane.

    I do not not object in the slightest to the council owning its offices, I resent
    building an office when so many are empty and cash reserves being spent when they could be used to address the appalling broadband issue here in Bradley Stoke.

  12. Roger,

    I agreed with the logic – not the decision. Big difference, not a contradiction. I argued there were better things to spend the money on.

    Re the 15 minutes – councillors rarely seemed to pay any attention and in the case of the bowls club it seemed many had frustrating times during those 15 minutes.

    The bowls club may now be thriving but did it need all the angst at the council’s hand?

    Re broadband – forget representations. I still have slow broadband many years after the issue was first raised. We want action, not words, promises and representations.

    Re the street lights – a majority agree? Is this the few hundred that took part in the consultation? A few hundred is not a majority of 20,000 residents.

    Shopping vouchers were one off to reward hard pressed staffing time of austerity? Get real! Show me another council that has dared to give a bonus during the current financial meltdown?

    I’m very disappointed in your attitude – and how you are ignoring many of the views people commenting here. Not one person has posted a positive comment aside from you. Give you a clue about opinions perhaps?

  13. Wow Roger, it’s rare to hear a politician be so patronising and ignorant about their electorate in public. I commend you for you honest thoughts and sarcasm. In most cases a basic finance cause is not what is required. You should have the common decency and respect for the people that have put you where you are to explain the situation and not talk down to them. Personally, I haven’t heard of you before, but I would be willing to bet you’re with an attitude like this you’re a typical chinless Tory wonder, so I am not surprised.

  14. Dear Cllr Avenin

    Who the hell do you think you are, patronising us in this way? The council deserve praise for freezing Council Tax? Well with the cut in services that you have made then you had no choice but to freeze it.

    The rent is c£30K pa on your current premises and yet you are spending c£400K to build new offices so the new building won’t start to be a benefit for about 10-12 years taking into account inflation in rent prices.

    I think you and your cronies need to get out amongst your electorate and drop the pretence that you are doing a good job, because believe me pal, you aren’t.

  15. In reply to Jonw80 I can asure you I do have a chin.

    Would Richard like to expand on ‘what cuts’ and to ‘what services’

    Regarding the Broadband issue I think you overestimate the powers of local councillors. We do not have a magic wand and cannot force say Virgin to deliver us faster speeds. This is presumably a business decision by them. Neither can we compel the Post Office to open a branch in the Willow Brook as much as this would be desirable. All we can do is continue to make representations at the highest levels for both of these.

    The street lighting issue was put to the public. If only a few hundred people take the time to reply and the results are in favour whose fault is that?

    So as I have said before if you all have such wonderful ideas do please get down to our meetings and put these forward. I for one will be intrigued to hear these.

    Roger Avenin

  16. I have no party policital affiliations and am certainly not a fan of the Tory party but this doesn’t seem like a bad deal to me. The loan is not going to cost anymore than rent in the short/medium term and in the long term the money saved will have made up for what is being spent from cash reserves, which after all are going to be earning very little interest in the bank at the moment and so would be decreasing in value in real terms.
    I’m also pleased that public toilets will be available at the Jubilee playground, much better than my kids having to pee in a bush!
    Personal insults to Cllr Avenin seem a bit unfair but easy to make when you are hiding behind pseudonyms on the internet.
    I didn’t think I’d find myself defending a Tory but he’s right, rather than just moan stand for council yourself and get involved!

  17. Avenin you are the Chair of the finance committee so you tell us which services you have increased funding in so that we all can be so beseechingly grateful for your existence in this pitiful, tin-pot backwater.

    Get involved you say? Nothing in this world would make me join your pathetic little band of freeloaders who believe that putting Cllr before your name makes you a somebody.

  18. @Cllr Avenin
    I began reading your initial post and was nodding to myself at the rent v buy argument you set out. But I’m afraid to say you lost me when you began treating your electorate with contempt.

    Talk about us overestimating your powers, it sounds like you’re overestimating your collective importance. I’m struggling to think what you give me for my precept, beyond a fireworks display and the increasingly disappointing festival. On the BSTC website the list of what you don’t have responsibility for is longer than what you actually look after!

    If this kind of contemptuous attitude and ego-massaging vanity project is the norm among you and your peers then it’s no wonder people don’t want to get involved. I certainly wouldn’t and I would happily vote to get rid of the whole parish, sorry “town” council tier.

  19. Oh dear god…

    Have we got so much spare cash in this town that a bunch of part time back patters can build an ivory tower, please Mr financial genius, please tell me that that money couldn’t have been spent on a centralised phone exchange, or facilities for the disaffected youth of this town. Please explain in monosyllabic words why you lot cannot work out of a couple of disused offices in Aztec west…. And finally please tell me what you have actually achieved with all that well counted cash you have spent in the last five years, because everything I can use has a whopping charge, including the very expensive leisure centre… Make the most of your time in smugland, this sort of wilfull waste of public money will not be tolerated by the ever increasing angry majority..

  20. @Anne I’m sorry I know i shouldn’t resort to personal insults about roger, it is childish of me. @roger I apologise for calling you a Tory. I can understand that this can be seen as one of the biggest insults to any sane minded individual. Not much support on here for it is there? Maybe we should all submit to basic finance course. Maybe you could present it, or get some of those financially trained whizzes from rbs or northern rock. It’s not just about a few sums, sometimes things should be done (or not done), just because it’s right to do so. It is not right to spend 12 years rent on a building during the greatest economic downturn of our time. We all could have done with that money as a council tax rebate as many of us are on pay freezes while inflation is pushing prices through the roof.
    Also, I have just googled you, and I have to disagree with your own chin assessment.

  21. Jonw80 as your last posting displays a civil tone and is done with some humour I will happily reply to this. We are not spending ’12 years rent’ but are taking out a loan to build our own premises with the express aim of not paying rent. Please see my first posting on this which explains the logic of owning rather than renting.

    I will not however respond to abusive and mindless drivel spouted by Richard,Owen and Rich H. Most of their comments are uninformed, written without wit, humour or repartee and contain no real content, indeed no content whatsoever. I would judge that these would be one level up from that that could be expected from a trained chimpanzee. Consequently I have no more to say on this subject and this will be the last posting I make on this page. Neither do I intend to revisit this page so any further abuse will fall upon deaf ears as far as I am concerned. I have better things to do.

    Finally Jonw80 you did actually call me a ‘Tory chinless wonder’. While you may be accurate with the first and the third words I think at my age I am in danger of developing several chins !!


  22. I hope you come knocking on my door Mr Avenin come election time! Let’s see how you fare in face to face political discussions then when you can’t hide behind your keyboard.

  23. Well there’s a Town Council meeting on Wednesday evening, shall we all pay Rog a visit and ask why he thinks that insulting the electorate is a wise political move?

  24. Whilst i agree in principal to the new offices being built, can the council assure us that this is not a job for the boys as the mayor owns a building company, can we be reassured that not one penny of public money is going into the mayors pocket

  25. Having read the above comments I felt I had to say something, along with the many others who have commented.
    The town council has committed itself to this spending over £400,000 to, as Roger says, to save the council spending £30,000 in rent per year. However, the figures from the last council meeting, which had the final draft budget, expected to make savings in rent of £20,000 a year. I believe that the comment Richard made, in regards to how long it would take to pay for this building is a fair one, which should not have been dismissed in the manner it was.
    Looking over the final budget for this coming year the council has set a negative budget, of £33,000 which again is going to come out of the reserve account, because they chose not the raise the council tax. Meaning that the reserve budget that was £283,000 is now going to be reduced to £150,000. Now I’m not against this council not raising the council tax, but not to raise it means they should be looking for savings, ones that could make a difference now. Spending £400,000 to save money now, is an argument you’re not going to win. However, in time, a long time, you could see the benefit.
    My immediate concern’s are in two parts. First, if the council is choosing to spend this amount of money, I would have hoped they would have looked at added services, say for example a community centre which could house a vibrant youth centre, rather than just adding another office in Bradley Stoke (a town that has many empty offices) or some additional services for the elderly. But I will come to the youth services later.
    My second concern is that if savings need to or should be made, then why does this council pay over £11,000 for newsletter publishing, and £3,700 on advertising/publishing. Does the town need to have a glossy monthly newsletter? Could this be changed to once every 6months and include an Annual report. Furthermore, how does this council think that it is acceptable for them to spend £1600 per annum on 8 mobile phones? I could take 8 sim only contracts out on a 12 month agreement (300minutes per phone) including VAT would cost £64 per month (£8 per sim contract) while buying 8 cheap pay and go phones, cheapest say at £15 would cost you £120.
    To the youth services, yes it is true you have put in £61,500 into your budget, however, what you fail to mention is that of this total £26,000 is still to be allocated, if in fact it ever will, and not shifted into some other fund in the future, and even if you do use that money it is no where near the amount spent on trained professionals, or on youth services in recent years. Then again you have merged a youth grant (£5000), skate park service (£8400), and spending £4000 for a mini bus into the total youth services budget which hadn’t been done in the past, thus keeping the budget the same as last year, and then have the audacity to say you haven’t cut anything…..

  26. A visit to Town Council meeting is a good initiative. People’s participation in the governance makes a real democracy. I read the article and few of the comments, few of us have made nasty comments which were not appropriate and unfair. While making an independent view, I feel that people like us are hiding behind keyboards rather than Councillor Roger. If the new Town Council building was given permission in January 2011 after due consultation, why are we arguing about it now? If we have a different opinion, we should have done it then. My humble opinion is stand together for the Town, shedding our petty bickerings.

  27. I would rather have seen the £400k spent on something that benefits the community rather than the people that are supposed to serve it. These people are elected as representatives of the community and are there to act on our behalf with OUR best interests at heart. We trust them with making the correct decision without the need to consult with the electorate on each and every subject. I have learnt now that we can’t and these people are no better than bankers and MP’s who only
    have self interest as a priority.
    I won’t be at the meeting as I am so stupid, I won’t be able to find it.

  28. I fear if the ‘Victor Meldrew’ indifference to the democratic process spread to other parts of our Community, it will end up with more irresponsible leaders. It is no good to blame our own representatives when we hide behind keyboards for smear campaign. Democracy allows us to react and respond things in a civic way, Make use of it. Attend more Town meetings and show the courage to air your views there. Think positive and Be Creative. It will make a big difference to our Town and eventually the whole Nation.

  29. I feel that the new Town Council building is not suitable for the Town for several reasons. Due to the Localism Bill and the future plans of the Governments, Local councils has to play a major role in the local subjects. I don’t think, the new building has been built up on a Futuristic vision. It hasn’t got space sufficient for anything. Even the Town Council won’t have a meeting place there. There is no place to integrate more services in that building. The previous Town Council failed to look into the Community Capital Grants Scheme of the Central Government too. The new building had eaten up the car parking spaces and in future it will create more traffic problems. I am sure, there will a bottle neck at its entrance. My point is when we invest our money, make best use of it. Politics should not play a part in it. Our focus should be for the best interests of the Town.

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