The two Conservative Councillors who represent voters in Southborough North continue to take different approaches to this Wednesday’s crucial Tunbridge Wells council vote on whether to take out a £77million loan to build a brand new Town Hall and Theatre.
The loan would represent £ 1,600 of new debt for every household in Tunbridge Wells and mean that the council tax would have to absorb £60 per household per year in interest payments on the loan.
One of Southborough North’s Conservative Borough Councillors, Joe Simmons, held an informal referendum in October in which 80 per cent of voters were against the scheme.
But this week, the other Conservative Councillor in the same ward, David Elliott (pictured below), told Southborough News that the local referendum in itself would not decide his vote.
Cllr Elliott, who is also Chairman of Tunbridge Wells Conservatives, told Southborough News: “I have not indicated how I am going to vote on Wednesday, so you’ll just have to wait until the meeting. I’ve heard all the arguments for and against the proposals, both from Officers of the Council and my electorate.”
Cllr Elliott continued: “Joe Simmons’ referendum was sent out too early before the electorate had had a chance to hear all the arguments both for and against. He should have done it after the public meetings and briefings had taken place and not before. We are both members of the same political party representing the same ward (Southborough North). The first I heard about his referendum was when it was posted through my letterbox. I was never consulted.”
This week Joe Simmons (pictured below) Southborough News he would stick with his plan to vote against the Civic Complex plans in line with the wishes of voters as indicated by the referendum.
Mr Simmons October referendum recorded 342 votes against the Civic Complex scheme and only 86 in favour. The turnout was 13 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Tunbridge Wells Labour Party Chair, Hugo Pound, told Southborough News that the Party was against the scheme. Mr Pound said: “Labour says that spending £90m plus to provide new council offices, an underground car park and a theatre is money spent on the wrong priorities. It is spending focused in Tunbridge Wells and paid for by taxpayers right across a borough that stretches from Benenden to Ashurst – where most people will never see the benefit.”
Mr Pound continued: “With Kent County Council cutting subsidies for up to 14 local bus services, and Borough Council slashing grants to local charities, and imposing new charges, this is the shape of cuts to come. It is a time when living standards continue to fall, when genuine affordable housing is out of reach, when parents are being asked for contributions to their children’s schooling, and when many roads are gridlocked and dangerously polluted. In view of this Tunbridge Wells Labour cannot support what can only be described as an out of touch and extravagant project which adds little to the lives of most ordinary voters.”