With the votes tied a 15 – 15 Falkirk’s first citizen announced that he was casting his second vote for the status quo which, bizarrely, he claimed was to bulldoze the current headquarters and town hall and build a new HQ on the site.
With the public gallery, for once well populated the votes were tied after a morning of behind the scenes pressure from the Labour whips. First surprise was the non appearance, despite being in the office up to ten minutes before the meeting started, of Gerry Goldie who had assured residents of Wellside Place when they approached him that he was opposed to the development.
Falkirk’s two Tories were next to be brought into line after a 30 minute recess during which John Patrick’s stated opposition was watered down to a staged abstention. His came after his Tory colleague, Malcolm Nicol, went one better and performed a humiliating u-turn and supporting the proposal thus ensuring Labour got their way.
Earlier in the debate SNP Group Leader Cllr Cecil Meiklejohn produced a report from 2007 which costed a new HQ at £21m, the same figure that is being quoted eight years later. The SNP chief also pointed out that Labour’s claim the project would be self financing was based on a number of optimistic \assumptions which could not be substantiated or guaranteed but were being presented by the Labour Administration as facts.
As well as the bulldozing of the Municipal Buildings another local landmark will definitely go with the threat to a third.
Falkirk Town Hall will be demolished and replaced with a lease of the proposed new Forth Valley College hall at Middlefield. This not only sees an end to Falkirk having a dedicated Town Hall but also cuts the capacity for future events by over 50% ending, for example, the format of the current Festival of Remembrance. The deal, which gives the college preferential rights of usage, sees Falkirk Council Taxpayers contribute £4m capital to the project and pick up the costs of the lease and maintenance costs
Contained in the papers was also a desire by the Falkirk Community Trust, the privatised body set up to manage some council services that meets in private, wants to close Falkirk Library and wants to relocate it to the college complex at Middlefield.
This has come straight out of left field and has raised both fears for the future of Library Services under Labour and the Tories. The SNP has pledged to fight to preserve the library which won an architectural award when extended and refurbished some years ago.