Southall Town Hall closure meetingFri 30 Jun 2017
The meeting was opened by the Southall Community Alliance (SCA) Chair, Harsev Bains, welcoming everyone and detailing what has happened to date.
20 years ago Southall Town hall was put up for sale by the Conservatives. Now it is being put for sale by Labour. They need “to renovate and restore the building”.
“To close anything, they start by running it down.” They took away the receptionist. So, the front doors do not open by themselves – “blocking the community from coming in”. The doors shut at 5pm – this excludes people from coming in. Even got safety locks on the toilets – need a special security pass to use them. The fire doors into the rear car park are blocked off. The disabled access is blocked. That amounts to a “constructive dismissal” of people providing services.
“To close anything, you make things look bad.” Southall Town Hall generates an income of £137,000. Yet it has a part-time Ealing Council manager/officer costing £52,000 and a huge cleaning bill. No wonder it makes a loss.
The Southall Community Alliance came up with a proposal, which has been sitting with Ealing Council for a year. The decision to effectively sell Southall Town Hall was not taken at the full Council meeting. The deadline for bids is 11 July 2017 and the estimated price is £1.5 million. On a 250 lease that would work out a £6K per year.
The building was gifted for “community use” by a covenant. It is the last civic building and a symbol of Southall.
After neglecting it for ages, the Council claims that roof repairs costing £70K are needed. A local builder has just stepped forward and is willing to take care of that. Not a problem anymore.
Councillor Fabio Conti asked “How can anyone object to your proposal?” The response from Janpal Basran, Manager at SCA, was that Ealing Council “side stepped the issue” and refused to acknowledge Southall Town Hall as a community centre and classified it as a business centre. The Council have refused to engage with us. We have shown that this building can show a profit. Ealing Council officers paid from Southall Town Hall budget are NOT providing services to the Southall Community or generating any revenue.
All community assets should be fully used. Town Halls are popular as wedding venues and there is no reason why Southall Town Hall should not be doing this.
Why do we need Oxford Street offices to sell Southall Town Hall? Is it going to be sold with or without the tenants? Some of the tenants have been there for 6, 10 or 15 years. Council can ask tenants to vacate the building by giving 2 months’ notice.
Southall is a “fantastic community of unity. To close anything, they start by running it down.”
Even if the Council sells the building, residents will not give up and will insist that it used for the community.
What will the Council do with the money? Invest in Southall or put it into their own coffers?
The Indian Workers Association representative said that Southall Town Hall has been put on sale “without consulting the local community. We must resist strongly.”
What can we do?
Councillor Fabio Conti suggested that a petition with 1500 signatures is required for it to be debated by Ealing Council. This was agreed to be the next action to take.
An online petition and protest gathering was also mentioned.
“People have spoken out against austerity. Ealing Council should ALSO take note.”
Who do the ABSENT local councillors represent? The local community or someone else?
Letter from Ealing Southall MP
On 29 June 2017 MP Virendra Sharma wrote to Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing Council, saying "I am writing to you again regarding Southall Town Hall and in pursuance to my letters dated 20th November 2015 and 18th April 2016. For over two years now I have been urging the council and local community groups to come to a mutually agreeable solution for the future of Southall Town Hall. Unfortunately we do not seem to have reached one, and I understand Ealing Council is unilaterally selling Southall Town Hall out from underneath community groups working in the local area."
"I am highly concerned by these allegations, and I want to urge Ealing Council in the strongest of terms to halt the sale of Southall Town Hall. I understand the exact wording is agreeing a lease of 250 years, but that amounts to a sale. I would also urge Ealing Council to agree a scheme with local groups which allow them to continue to provide services from the Southall Town Hall site. This was an issue raised regularly during the most recent General Election, and I know that many residents feel strongly about protecting this local landmark as a community facility."London Assembly Member (for Ealing and Hillingdon) Dr Onkar Sahota said "I could not come to the meeting due to other commitments. I want to see this asset remain in Public ownership for the benefit of community."
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