At its meeting last night Councillors voted against any further spending or pursuit of an asset transfer of Prudhoe East Centre. This decision has not been taken lightly and was first raised in response to the building being put on the open market in January 2017. It is fair to say that the town council was split on the matter, with some members cautious about the potential costs and others very keen to protect the building for the people of Prudhoe. As a result, the Council has had to tread very carefully, seeking interest from potential users, feedback from the current service users and more recently a full building survey.
The spending of Prudhoe Town Council has increased over the years as the Council has taken on more responsibility, evident from our most recent annual report. Local people are at the heart of every service the Town Council provides and members felt that the substantial investment of time and money required to bring Prudhoe East Centre to a suitable standard for community use would forsake everything else and that simply wasn’t favourable.
Whilst the Town Council has the potential to borrow the ¾ million pounds required to repair and refurbish Prudhoe East Centre, the repayment costs would result in a significant increase in the Town Council budget, and the precept paid by the people of Prudhoe. A long-term commitment with no realistic income stream to off-set future running costs was considered too large a financial burden. Yes, the Town Council could reduce spending in other areas such as Grant Aid, Events and Youth Provision but residents really value these things.
Although Prudhoe Town Council has agreed that it cannot pursue an asset transfer of Prudhoe East Centre, it is good to know that the building is listed as an asset of community value, therefore an element of protection now exists.
The meeting discussed the disgraceful neglect of the building over many years and administrations and that Northumberland County Council has repeated that there is no funding available. What happens next is unknown, but hopefully now the Town Council has made a firm decision, those parties responsible for the building will take direct action themselves.
Maybe now it is time for Northumberland County Council to do right by the building and the people of Prudhoe and allow it to reach its potential as ‘an asset of community value’, rather than being allowed to deteriorate any further.
All reports presented and decisions taken are available to the public.