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Conservatives in Burntwood have accused Labour of jumping on the bandwagon over the u-turn on the renaming of the Old Mining College Centre.
Burntwood Town Council has confirmed proposals to rebrand the Queen Street building as the Town Hall have been permanently shelved following local opposition.
Opposition Labour councillors had criticised the move, suggesting it would begin to wipe out the area’s mining heritage.
But Cllr Richard Mosson, leader of the Conservative-controlled council, said he was “disappointed” by the comments from his counterparts – and claimed the previous Labour administration were behind the plan in the first place.
“The idea to rename the building as the Town Hall was suggested originally by Labour councillor Sue Woodward when plans to take over the Old Mining College Centre were already at an advanced stage when they were in control of the council,” he said.
“We, like they, thought this would present a new chapter for the building and a fresh start for the building which has been left rather unloved to a degree in recent years.
“The new controlling group has already upgraded the IT suite with state of the art PCs and software for the benefit of current users and to help attract new users. The WiFi has also been upgraded and the council plan to move into the building in the next few weeks and will continue to improve this facility for all users.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, we are all aware of the building’s heritage and had the name been changed we would have ensured that the heritage would never have been forgotten.
“Having simply picked up the baton from Labour along with their idea of renaming the building ‘the Town Hall’, we are now being criticised by residents and users of the building, which we can fully accept of course.
“However, to be criticised by Labour – who’s plan it was to take on the building and who’s idea it was to change the name in the first place – is disappointing. They appear to be just taking the opportunity to side with residents and users to distance themselves and deflect themselves from any blame.
“As a group, we have made what we believe to be a wise decision. The name is to remain and we will look to make further improvements to the building as the months progress for the benefit of everybody.”
But Cllr Woodward insisted Cllr Mosson’s view of the history of the discussion was another example of him “lurching from one public relations disaster to another”.
“Let me bust Cllr Mosson’s myth, repeated by Conservative supporters over recent days, and which I made clear to him when he proposed the name change,” she said. “He clearly didn’t listen. I did not make the proposal. It was put forward by his administration, though I quite understand why he wants to shift the blame onto me.
“I’d said, informally, that the Old Mining College Centre could be like a town hall for Burntwood – a centre and a home for Burntwood Town Council.
“Labour’s outline plans for the centre were very different from what he and his group are proposing and would have been subject to consultation with the local community. Instead, he proposed the name change should happen with immediate effect – no discussion or consultation at all.
“It’s a cheap political get-out and shows that Cllr Mosson has no clear strategy for the town or the future of the Old Mining College Centre. He lurches from one public relations disaster to another.
“Having said that, Labour does want to work constructively with the Tory administration for the benefit of our town. The offer is still there – for example on a Town Deal – so I look forward to a more constructive relationship in the future. It’s Cllr Mosson’s call.”
Cllr Mosson insisted this increase was needed to ensure the sustainability of the Old Mining College Centre when the council move into the building.
And he has accused Labour of opportunism over their criticism of the new staffing bill.
He said: “The plan to take on the Old Mining College Centre was originally an initiative tabled by the previous controlling Labour group and plans were well advanced when the Conservatives took over in May last year.
“The Conservative group agreed with Labour in that taking over the centre would be good for both the town and the council.
“I am still at a loss about all of the criticism regarding the additional staffing costs as had Labour been elected in May they would have been in exactly the same position.”
But Labour councillor Diane Evans insisted local pressure over the renaming had sent a clear message to the ruling Conservative group.
“I am delighted that hard work from the public, via the online petition and continual pressure from the Labour group on Burntwood Town Council, have made the Conservative leadership see common sense.
“In future, the Tory group need to think carefully before they act, but at the moment they do not appear to be learning from their mistakes.
“It is about time the Tories on Burntwood Town Council – especially the leader Cllr Richard Mosson and deputies Cllr Heather Tranter and Cllr Richard Bamborough – learn and realise that they cannot impose their views on such issues on the community and other councillors without consultation and discussion.
“They need to learn that knee jerk reactions do not work and communication is the key.”