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Issue 60 June - July 2015 •• Now 25,000 copies monthly •• debacle: Setting the record straight Guisborough Registry Office


Coastal View is


years old


By Bill Suthers A


s I am no longer a member of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council I feel the


time is ripe to tell the whole story about the disposal of the Guisborough Register Offi ce and the Earthbeat bid. Few will know the details of events surrounding this decision as much of the process was deemed ‘commercially confi dential’ and hence discussed in private meetings. So, as a Guisborough Borough Councillor at the time I felt like a character from Catch 22 throughout the whole process. There can be little doubt that in Guisborough


the disposal of the old register offi ce was the most controversial decision made during the last local government term. Firstly it is worth noting that although registry services are not as important as they once were due to the internet it is very disappointing that Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council continue to prevaricate and refuse to even provide an itinerant service in the adjacent library for a couple of days per week. There have been many local authority asset disposals in recent times due to central government funding cuts. The Borough’s annual government grant has been cut by half hence the Authority trying to operate with 1000 fewer staff. Asset disposals are deemed commercial sensitivity due to the tendering process so they are always conducted on confidential ‘green paper’. As it is now a couple of years down the line and many of the contents of the papers have already been widely trailed so I hope it does not breach any confi dentiality to share the whole story by way of ‘setting the record straight’.


When the building was marketed the offi cers received four bids. Two of these have been widely discussed in a number of public forums: a bid by the pub chain Weatherspoons for almost £250,000; and the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) bid by the Earthbeat Theatre Company to convert the building into a community arts venue and theatre. Although it is important to note another bid of just over £100,000 to turn the building into four fl ats as this was the second choice in the offi cers’ (confi dential) report. When I read the report I was aghast that the pub bid was recommended to Cabinet, effectively turning down the chance of a community theatre for the bargain price, opportunity cost, of £250,000. It also paid scant disregard to geographical balance, given the signifi cant recent investment at Redcar. I had meetings with Tony Galuidi, the spokesman for Earthbeat around this time and was convinced that the theatre proposal was viable. Tony was of course unaware of the recommendation due to confi dentiality. I decided to challenge the officer view at the ruling Labour Group meeting prior to Cabinet. Before Full Council and Cabinet political Groups meet, discuss the papers and decide on a Group position. As the Labour Group held a majority at the time their Group decisions were inevitably implemented. I made the case for the theatre bid presenting a series of arguments why the Group should ignore the officer recommendation. I am convinced that I won the argument but the leadership of the Group wanted to follow the offi cer recommendation. The leadership was


Continued on page 6 ►►►


Freebrough Flyer 12 page supplement inside


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