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Ealing LibDems accuse Ealing Labour of stopping a debate and vote over future of Ealing Town Hall and Victoria Hall

Ealing Liberal Democrats along with Ealing Conservatives have accused Ealing Labour of stopping a debate and vote on Wednesday night (13 June 2023) over the future of Ealing Town Hall and Victoria Hall.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Jon Ball, the Opposition Spokesperson on Planning, Licensing and Housing had raised a motion to save Victoria Hall but shortly after speaking,the ruling Labour party used a “closure motion” which stopped the motion from continuing and being voted on.

View the meeting below

Councillor Julian Gallant, leader of Ealing Conservatives told EALING.NEWS of his concern. “Labour is therefore attempting to stifle public debate about the future of the Town Hall, one of Ealing’s key municipal assets. Ealing residents can be assured that the Conservatives will continue to scrutinise the Council leadership over the redevelopment of the Town Hall.”

Ealing Liberal Democrats motion for debate
Ealing Liberal Democrats motion for debate

The closure motion resulted in no vote being taken on whether the Council’s plan for an Ealing Town Hall hotel affecting Victoria Hall should be stopped after it had been revealed that the scheme so far had cost the Council over £3 million.

Neil Reynolds, chair of Ealing Green Party told EALING.NEWS: “Ealing residents have a right to know about the current plans of the council to sell a valued community meeting place and part of Ealing’s history. Simply refusing to talk issues where the council’s decision making is questionable will not make them go away.”

An Ealing Council spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “Use of the procedure in question was justified on this occasion because there is an outstanding legal challenge that is critically relevant to the subject of the motion. In those circumstances, it would not be appropriate for the council to debate and vote on the motion.”

In his speech, Councillor Ball had written:

“Thank you Mister Mayor,
“Members of the cabinet are forever lecturing us about the dire state of the Council’s finances. So let’s think about what three million pounds could do. That could pay for free school meals for all the borough’s school children across the summer holidays. Or it could pay to plant twelve thousand trees in our streets. Or it could pay to rent a room for every single person sleeping rough on Ealing’s streets for a year.

“But instead Ealing has wasted nearly three million pounds and counting on its doomed scheme to turn this Town Hall into a hotel, including the costs of fighting residents in court who are striving to retain Victoria Hall as an available and affordable venue for local community groups and residents, rather than turning it into a hotel ballroom available only to the elite.

“In fact the true cost to council funds so far is even higher as these figures include neither the lost revenue due to Victoria Hall and other Town Hall rooms not being available for booking for big chunks of the last few years – far beyond closures required for Covid – nor the three hundred and fifty thousand pound indemnity that thi administration foolishly committed to paying Mastcraft if and when the deal finally falls through.

“The Victoria Hall was built using funds raised by public subscription – the Victorian form of crowdfunding – and has been the historic scene of thousands of our boroughs most salient political and cultural meetings, concerts and exams not to mention countless weddings. It was not the council’s to dispose of in the first place and so the Hotel scheme was always built on sand. We await the court judgement on this point.

“But on top of that, the financial realities of development have moved on hugely since the scheme was agreed by 2018 due to Brexit, Covid and the inflation caused by Liz Truss.

“To give credit to the leader of the Council, he realised that the Perceval House scheme did not stack up and he took the decision to scrap it. Will he tonight, stand up and make the same announcement with respect to the Town Hall scheme? There would be no shame for Cllr Mason in saying tonight that the Town Hall hotel scheme is no longer on the table and committing to work with local residents – rather than battling against them – to deliver a new use for the
architectural jewel in Ealing’s crown.

So, Mister mayor, I beg to move the motion in my name and I challenge Cllr Mason and Cllr Manro to stop wasting money, to put aside any notion of procedural tricks tonight and to scrap this ill conceived scheme!”

At its 23 April 2023 meeting, Labour-run Ealing Council revealed that it had spent nearly £3m since July 2016 in its plans to redevelop the Town Hall site.

The Mastcraft project has been in limbo since April 2021 when an appeal by Friends of Victoria Hall was lodged against a decision by the Charity Commission to support Ealing Council’s attempt to take over the property of the Victoria Hall Trust.

A three-day hearing of the appeal took place in February 2023 but the outcome is unknown, with the court still to announce its decision.

Councillor Ball said: “Liberal Democrats say that Labour members of the cabinet are forever lecturing us about the dire state of the Council’s finances. The three million pounds that Labour has wasted on its doomed scheme to turn this Town Hall into a hotel, could have been spent on free school meals for all the borough’s school children across the summer holidays, to pay to plant twelve thousand trees in our streets. Or it could pay to rent a room for every single person sleeping rough on Ealing’s streets for a year. Liberal Democrats say that Ealing Labour should scrap the scheme and retain Victoria Hall as an available and affordable venue for local community groups and residents.”

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