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The Final Frontier

January 27, 2012

Maintenance Review Survey and Report

This document is the third one provided by CMBC in support of their desire to relocate Halifax Central Library. The first two documents are about Northgate House and barely mention the Library except to say that they share some services, especially boilers, electricity and telephony which is supplied via Northgate House.

Well on first glimpse this at least looks to cover the library, currently a contentious issue in Calderdale. This document is from 2010 and straight away begins by contradicting the 2005 survey by stating the “external envelope of Northgate House and the Central Library are in poor condition”. It later though states that the external is basically sound with requirement to give attention to the top 4 courses of cladding.

The document goes on to state that the fire alarm system is not up to date – 5 years after the initial survey stated the same. Why are CMBC allowing our assets not to be maintained in this way? It doesn’t really matter what was planned back in 2005,  these updates should have been done straight away – safety of people should be paramount. Neglect in this manner could lead to harm or death of staff should the worse have happened and a fire be not picked up by the inadequate alarm system. CMBC have a duty of care to their staff as well as the residents, users and visitors.

2.3.2 mentions a requirement for a maintenance budget – I find it difficult to believe that CMBC do not have a maintenance budget for our assets. However on the evidence that so many of our assets are now seemingly deteriorating and this is being used as justification for demolition I am clearly wrong. An organisation this size cannot be allowed to neglect public assets and this is something that CMBC should be pulled up on now – not after they have knocked down the evidence of their neglect. And for the record -“we are where we are” and ” people have moved on” are not acceptable excuses.

2.2 At last some figures – An 8 year commitment for both the Library and Northgate House combined is £915,000. Compare this with 8 years lease for the Broad Street Development at £300,00 a year and it would save us £585,000!

2.4.1 An interesting first mention of air conditioning. Comments from other forums suggest there is no air conditioning in Northgate House, yet here is suggested that the chillers be maintained! Is it just not being used to save a few pennies at the expense of the workers comfort?

2.5.2 Refers to the cost to separate Northgate House and the Central Library and estimates the cost to be £830,000.

3.1.3 “generally the building is fully utilised, all rooms and corridors are in occupation” yet CMBC claim that it is surplus to requirements?

3.2.14 Mentions £18,000 being spent on windows – this must be the ones to lower lever mentioned in an earlier document and is therefore another £18,000 to come off the bottom line – “every little helps”! oops sorry wrong building – Tescos is further along the road.

The report details the boilers in use in Northgate House and does not suggest they need replacing! This is because they have already been replaced, yet (sorry to harp on about this) no reduction in the bottom line has been made – it still stands at £15m.

Halifax Central Library

Section 4.0 finally begins to address the Central Library issues, this is page 22 of a 37 page report (including appendices). Why have these reports been included in the consultation for the library when the focus is on Northgate House?

Visitors to Halifax who have walked up Gaol Lane will have noticed an area that has been fenced off alongside the library. According to this report it will cost in the region of £12,500 to fix this problem – why hasn’t this been done as part of a preventative maintenance program? (I am now certain the answer to this question is because there is no preventative maintenance program).

Costs re : Library

Backlog Maintenance £67,000 – Given how much we have saved with having no maintenance performed on much of the building I think we have got away with it quite lightly!

After the Backlog maintenance has been done it will cost us £61k for the following 3 years maintenance. I would have thought with a building of this size that is not a lot of money. Also the same 3 years for Northgate House would be £161k

Then in 5.2 there are costs to keep both buildings operational for 3 and for 5 years as follows

  • Three Year Commitment for Northgate House £379k
  • Three Year Commitment for Central Library £128k
  • Five Year Commitment for Northgate House £687k
  • Five Year Commitment for Central Library £228k

These figures include the backlog maintenance.

So the figures for 3 years to maintain both buildings is £507k, then to maintain for a further 5 years (8 years in total) £915k.

Compare this with the costs to lease space in Broad Street for 8 years at £2.4m!

Conclusion

Whilst reading through these 3 reports I have had in mind the figures being quoted to refurbish Northgate House – £15m and The Central Library – £6m. In the light of these reports I believe these figures to be highly inflated, they are being used to strengthen the case to demolish the buildings and make Northgate available to developers.

I understand from a contact that the idea to redevelop Northgate came from a senior member of The Economy and Environment Dept. at Calderdale MBC. No surprise there then as if we are not demolishing and re-building then we don’t need so many staff – they are justifying their jobs. But it does make me concerned as to the involvement of the cabinet in all this. The first question I would ask cabinet is “have they read the reports?” Then I would ask if they understood them? This is what they are elected for – not rubber stamping grandoise vanity projects

I have constantly mentioned the boiler replacement that is clearly claimed as part of the costs for refurbishment in the consultation for the library and also in the first 2 of the reports-but not the 3rd one. You may ask why I keep coming back to that, well I am of the opinion that this is being used to inflate the figures when in reality it is work no longer required because it has already been done. Now if this is the case then one must ask oneself what other work has already been done? I am not suggesting the work should have been avoided, especially that which is for the safety of CMBC staff, but we  are not going to be paying twice for it – are we?.

I would also ask what work has been done to the electrical system? There has clearly been problems noticed and the reports state that these should be attended to urgently, if this has been ignored then we run the risk of harming users from faulty equipment. This would cost us dearly if it came to claims. Plus, and this is something that CMBC do not seem to have grasped – CMBC staff are an asset and in the same way as our buildings should be cared for and looked after – this is a duty not just inflicted on organisations such as CMBC but it is surely a duty of each of us to look after each other.

My conclusion after reading these documents is that we cannot afford to demolish either Northgate House or the Central Library. There is no proof that retailers are queuing up to move into a shopping complex on Northgate, in fact we hear that the Penning Centre on Horton Street is having trouble finding occupants for it’s planned development and businesses in Woolshops are currently having trouble with some closing. Why then do CMBC think that Northgate will be any different. In the first 2 reports this has actually been mentioned along with the risk of Northgate House standing empty and falling into disrepair. How will that enhance our town centre?

Alongside this CMBC need to consider the changes that are affecting other town centres. Halifax’s retailers are not alone in experiencing difficulties attracting customers, especially as their competition now comes not just from surrounding towns but also from the internet.

Reading materials themselves may well be changing as many more people are using electronic devices to read books, this could change completely the requirements for the Central Library in the very near future. Perhaps, and I realise this suggestion will not make me popular in the DBOL group, but perhaps in the next 10 years we will not need such a large library!

There has been too much haste in pushing these plans through, The cabinet Member with the responsibility for Economy and Environment was saying there were no plans to relocate the library as recently as July 2011, yet a few weeks later architects were drawing up the sketches for the new library. I get the impression that instead of the consultation being conducted openly and transparently with all the relevant information being made available to us to enable us to make the right decisions, we are being fed part of the facts. We are being sold this scheme as the saviour of our town centre.

I would suggest that CMBC scrap this consultation altogether and start again. Make the case that they apparently firmly believe in and allow the public to share the vision and if it is decided that this is the correct thing to do then good! The current management style of bluster and bullying, of smoke and mirrors and of spin is not acceptable.

Sort it out CMBC – with honesty, openess and transparency – it’s not a lot to ask for.

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From → politics

One Comment
  1. Anne Marsden permalink

    In my opinion, honesty, openess and transparency will not happen so long as the current leader is in place

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