Friday brief: Police and crime commissioner blames local media for his costly unused garage being burgled
Plus news from around the county
A £3.3million garage workshop bought by Northamptonshire’s police, fire and crime commissioner which has been unused for more than two years will be sold at a “small loss”.
Stephen Mold said he is planning to buy a new site later this year to build another workshop to service and maintain Northamptonshire’s police and fire service’s vehicles.
Mr Mold’s office bought the unit in Earls Barton in February 2021 but it has only been used for scoping works.
The Baron Avenue site was put up for sale earlier this year for offers “in the region” of £3.5m.
Mr Mold said it was burgled after reports in April that it was empty.
He told Northamptonshire police, fire and crime panel:
“I have to be careful about what I say because there are a number of contractual pieces; I have somebody interested in buying the building.
“As a consequence of bringing it up last time, to say that it was up for sale and empty, the local paper produced an article on it and subsequently it was burgled for a lot of its pipes, its toilets.
“I’m going to have to be careful going forward about what information we say here that puts our buildings at risk,” he added.
Last November, Mr Mold’s office said the price of planned refit work at the unit had soared from a planned £6m to £16m and that work would be stopped.
Mr Mold said the second garage workshop will be “ideal” for the services’ needs.
Of the costs revealed in a freedom of information request by the local democracy reporting service earlier this week, £660,000 paid in VAT will be claimed back.
Mr Mold said another £525,000 spent on designs will be used to help the design of the second workshop.
The office paid £187,500 in stamp duty for the Baron Avenue site.
Mr Mold added:
“The reason we took the decision not to proceed with the original business case (for Baron Avenue) is that it was likely to cost less than £10m.
“As we came out of Covid and things like that…the cost shot through the roof.
“It is factually correct: as a result of stamp duty there will be a small loss on this building but it will not be, as a custodian of public money, of tens of millions of pounds.
“I probably saved something like £8m by not going ahead (at Baron Avenue). There’s nothing I can do about inflation and the cost of what it was it was going to be.
“We took a pragmatic decision, it wasn’t an easy decision.”
Mr Mold said he was “very excited” about the plan for the new workshop and that it will be affordable.
Report by Nathan Briant, Local democracy reporter
News in brief:
West Northamptonshire Council spent nearly £49,000 compensating up to nine children and their families over failures in how their special educational needs were met.
The authority was earlier told to pay out £7,125 to one family after a child with autism did not get a proper education for nearly two years.
In a blistering report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) in March, the council was found to have caused the child ‘significant physical and mental distress’ and failed to communicate as it said it would with their mother.
The LGO said despite repeated requests for comment, the authority had failed to respond at ‘the earliest opportunity’ and only then after the report process had begun.
The council was told to review the cases of eight other children with special educational needs. They had also been out of school for long periods.
The LGO also told the council to ‘signpost’ those parents to the ombudsman if they were dissatisfied by the way the authority had acted.
The council said it had worked to ‘put things right for others identified to have experienced injustice’.
It said it has given out payments of between £200 and £600 for each month needs were not met, according to LGO guidelines.
West Northamptonshire Council said it had paid out a total of £48,600, which includes the £7,125 paid following March’s report and the other eight cases.
The council’s audit and governance committee will be asked to note the report at a meeting on Wednesday.
When March’s report was published, the council’s cabinet member for children, Councillor Fiona Baker, said council members were “disappointed” and “sorry” to have “previously fallen short” but had accepted the LGO’s findings in full.
Michael King, the LGO, said:
“I’m pleased the council has agreed to the recommendations I have made to remedy the situation for the family, but it should not have taken the threat of a public interest report for them to have done so.”
West Northamptonshire Council approved a new £1.1m special needs unit at Northampton’s Hunsbury Park Primary School for up to 50 children in March.
Another plan is progressing on a new special school in Tiffield with the authority, developers and the Greenwood Multi Academy Trust.
Report by Nathan Briant
The 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush ship will be celebrated with a number of events across the county next week.
From Friday, (June 23) the story of the Windrush migrants who settled in Northampton will be told in a free exhibition at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. The digital exhibition, (which runs until August 13) provides a snapshot of the lives ofWest Indians who made their way from London to live and work in the town from the 1950’s onwards.
Northampton’s Windrush Advisor, Ray Campbell said:
“The 75th Windrush Anniversary events gives us an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the legacy of the Windrush Generation and their descendants.We encourage everyone to visit the exhibition.
“The events will tell the story of the obstacles that the Windrush pioneers had to overcome,detailing their resilience,determination, adaptability and can - do attitude. Sadly, the pain is ongoing for many Caribbean migrants and their families and the injustices of the Windrushscandal, will also be covered.
“Importantly,they will highlight the significant contribution that Caribbean migrants made to the economic, cultural and social development of the county.”
Windrush flags will be raised outside Northampton Guildhall at 11.55am at Thursday, (June 22) and at 5pm at Swanspool House in Wellingborough. There will also be other events throughout this month and next.
🎻 Towcester Midsummer Music Festival takes place tomorrow from 2.30pm at The Mill.
🍖 The Oundle Food Festival is happening tomorrow from 9am in the Market Place.