Liberal Democrat plans to target more funding at the borough’s covid-ravaged high streets and cultural offerings through a “Community and Cultural Transformation Fund” were unanimously voted down by Labour councillors at last night's Budget Full Council.
The proposals would have been paid for by cancelling the £12 million upgrade to give the council a new HQ, a project that the council’s own consultation showed was the most unpopular item in the budget - even after counting those who supported refurbishment but opposed upgrades to the building as supporters¹.
In his speech to full council, Cllr Luke Cawley Harrison (LD-Crouch End), Haringey Liberal Democrat Leader, said:
“With so much uncertainty around the world of work in the future - following the shift to home-working due to the pandemic - now is simply not the time to be spending millions on new council offices that may become redundant before they are even completed. It is a baffling decision being made at an astonishing time.
“Given the desperate need for a post-coronavirus recovery, this would be a reckless use of public funds at such a vital moment, and we believe it is imperative that the proposed £12 million for expanding the Civic Centre should be spent on the community, not on council offices.”
Labour councillors also voted against Lib Dem proposals for a £1.3 million cash injection into improving the physical and mental health of residents over the next five years and a £5.8 million business rate reduction scheme which would help business recover post-Covid. This would have been funded through savings generated by streamlining the council’s management structure and moving from agency to permanent staff.
After the meeting Cllr Paul Dennison (LD – Highgate), Haringey Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Finance, Business and Local Investment, said:
“This budget should have been based on supporting the residents and businesses of Haringey in a post-Covid recovery, but instead we have seen Labour choosing to put vanity ahead of community need. Politics is all about priorities, and the Liberal Democrats will always put the people we represent at the heart of our thinking.
“The administration’s own budget consultation showed that the Civic Centre project is wildly unpopular and that residents found the budget lacking in its support for public spaces and the health of residents. The failure to engage seriously with ideas to put residents first shows that Haringey Labour is as out of touch with what the borough needs, and residents want, as it has ever been."
¹Cabinet Papers 02/21, p 307