Stalemate over Houghton Regis Town Council repairs

HR Town Council offices      [Google Streetview]
HR Town Council offices [Google Streetview]

Houghton Regis Town Councillors narrowly voted against recommended £20k repairs to the council building - despite worries that staff could trip or step through the “eroded” floor.

On January 22, the full town council met to discuss a report looking into council office provision in the town over the next 20 years.

Town clerk Clare Evans said: “Out there [in the office area], you can feel the floor breaking away and somebody actually tripped over today on that bit that has eroded.”

Community Independent Alliance, Independent and Lib Dem members voted against the recommendation for repairs, outvoting Labour members in its favour.

The report stated: “The office floor in particular is deteriorating. A planned repair would enable the council to effectively budget and to plan for business continuity.

“Failure to complete the recommended works may result in the floor failing and a significant disruption.”

The report’s recommendations stem as part a ‘consideration survey’ carried out by safety professionals in March 2017, which identified a number of essential repairs.

Cllr Tracey McMahon of the Community Independent Alliance described the survey as an “open chequebook” and criticised costs such as £250 on painting fire doors as well as £3,400 to replace walkways.

Although he voted against the recommended repairs, Community Independent Alliance Cllr Jimmy Caroll said: “There is a safety issue in that office, we’ve now got a concern that our employees are working in there ... I think we should be vacating that area immediately.”

Labour Cllr Tim Welch said: “Surely our main concern is the safety of our staff.

“We’ve sat on this for nine months. If anything God forbid happened and it came out that councillors voted to stop this proposed work, it would be on their heads at the end of the day.”

Council officers had recommended the repairs as a solution to keep the temporary building viable for 10-20 years – when alternative options for a council building could be examined in view of the town’s predicted population boom.

The report stated: “It was suggested through the condition survey that the completion of the recommended works would extend the life of the building by a further 10-20 years.

“This would be a convenient extension of time as it mirrors the envisaged development of the strategic growth areas. The council can then consider new office provision in line with the growth of the town.”

After a proposed amendment was voted down, a subsequent vote was then taken on the original council officers’ recommendation. Despite support from the Labour group, this was voted down by independent and Lib Dem councillors.

A Houghton Regis Town Council officer confirmed that informal emergency measures had since been taken over the floor, despite no resolution from councillors.

She added: “A short term temporary solution is underway to ensure staff safety. Longer term options are being investigated and will be reported to town councillors in due course.”