Ian Shires

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ward, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Walsall MBC Learn more

Demand for Tories to explain change of heart over purchase of the Saddlers Centre

by Ian Shires on 19 September, 2018

Since gaining control of Walsall Council back in May this year, it would appear that the Tories have had a massive change of heart over their opposition to the purchase of the Saddlers Centre by the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration.

Many of you will recall the vociferous campaign the Tories ran in the run up to the Local Elections in May both in the press and their election leaflets, where leading Tories cast scorn on the wisdom of making what they described at the time as “an exceptionally risky investment.”

Well, less than six months have gone by since the Tories took over the running of the Council and they appear to be singing a very different tune.

Take a look at this extract from the Minutes and Reports to Council on Monday 17th September 2018. It’s taken from the ‘Progress Report’ of Councillor Andrew, the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Regeneration. On page 40 of the report presented to Council by Councillor Andrew it says:

The Development Team has enabled many development projects to commence and complete

Waterfront, the former LEX site, has benefited from Local Growth funding with £150,000 of site remediation works having recently been completed. Interest in the land has been expressed and the Council is looking to transact its land interest to support proposals of a new commercial development-I hope to be able to announce more on this later this year. The Council also continues to work with WMCA, Transport for West Midlands, Homes England and land owners to explore redevelopment proposals for land at Station Street, which will seek to improve the sites connectivity and gateway location next to Walsall Rail Station and the Waterfront area. The acquisition of the Saddlers Centre provides the Council with a real point of control to proactively support regeneration in the town centre and enhance the key gateways at Station Street, Park Street and Bradford Place. While the loss of M&S was sad to see in August, the opportunity to consider our options for their former space will be explored further by the Walsall Town Centre Masterplan.

A number of Councillors were called to speak to the report but questioning of the Portfolio Holder is limited to 10 minutes by members and although I had indicated that I wished to ask a question, time ran out. The question I wanted to ask? It was quite simple really, what I wanted to say was “For the benefit of the public, could Councillor Andrew explain what led to his massive change of heart over our decision to buy the Saddlers Centre. Why was it so wrong for us yet so right for him?”

I think it is a legitimate question. I think that you deserve an answer off Councillor Andrew. And from all those Conservative Councillors who voiced their opposition to the purchase of the Centre in numerous election leaflets shoved relentlessly through letterboxes right across the Borough in the run up to May 3rd

Whilst we are on, Eddie Hughes MP (Con) Walsall North might also like to apologise for his misleading opposition to the purchase of the Saddlers Centre, for misleading voters and wasting Parliamentary time on the subject. Unless of cause he still believes that it was a bad decision and disagrees with his former colleagues on Walsall Council.

Either way, I have had a number of people say that they feel that they were misled by the Tories, and that they would have taken a different view had the seed of doubt not been sown by the Tories.

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