In its first sitting yesterday (June 22) the cabinet agreed to review the project to relocate Hereford’s new library in the Maylord shopping centre, which the council owns.
According to a report prepared for the meeting, the “abortive costs” of pausing the project, regardless of the review’s outcome, would be around £140,000, as well as “additional demobilisation costs from the contractor, which could be circa a further £610,000”.
Green group leader and former cabinet member for economy and environment Coun Ellie Chowns called the review plan “madness”, and said the basis for the cabinet’s decision was “incredibly weak”.
“This jeopardises the full £3,000,000 pounds from the [Government’s] Towns Fund for the project, which is literally about to start construction,” she said.
Coun Chowns added it was “obvious” that the outcome of the review would not be to recommend staying with the Maylord option, “otherwise, why would you do it?”
Meanwhile a consultation with political group leaders on the matter “was called for lunchtime on Tuesday (June 20) with less than 24 hours’ notice” she said.
“Neither Coun [Harry] Bramer, the cabinet member responsible, nor the leader [Jonathan Lester] did us the courtesy of attending,” while Coun Bramer “has not since bothered to watch the video of it”, Coun Chowns added.
Coun Bramer replied that watching this “is on my list for the weekend”, and did not say whether he had read the accumulated project documentation on his desk.
Independents for Herefordshire leader Coun Liz Harvey then said: “He is reluctant to say whether he has read the papers, yet he is going to make a decision on this today along with other cabinet members – what chance is there that they have made themselves familiar with the detail?”
Coun Bramer told the meeting: “The demand for retail space in Maylord has happily remained relatively high, it is still a viable entity.”
What are your thoughts?
You can send a letter to the editor to have your say by clicking here .
Letters should not exceed 250 words and local issues take precedence.
But Coun Harvey said keeping Maylord for shops meant the council, as owner, would be “competing with private business”.
“Reputational damage to the council and its officers is already happening as a result of cabinet even suggesting this review,” she added.
Coun Bramer confirmed that the current library, housed with the city museum in Broad Street, will be rehoused in Friars Street next month “as planned, while we review this undertaking”, while there will be “redistribution” of some library services to elsewhere in the county, “notably Ledbury and Ross-on-Wye, benefiting more remote parts of the county”.