A £300,000 pot of cash could be considered to help pay for the increasing costs of providing a youth hub for Haverhill.
John Burns asked Tuesday’s (April 29) meeting of Haverhill Town Council what the £300,000 ‘Property Acquisition Fund’ was for.
Town mayor Roger André replied: “There was a plan years ago to buy some High Street property and rent at a reasonable level.
“That has come to naught because event that sum of money was not sufficient to buy something.
“We decided we aren’t going to do that some years ago but kept the money and may still use it.
“It had been for us to provide an incentive to the High Street (to drive down town centre rents).”
Last week’s Echo reported on how the costs of providing a youth hub in Haverhill at the former Magistrates’ Court building in Camps Road look to have soared from an initial estimate of £150,000 to around £220,000.
Umbrella group ONE Haverhill has been working with the town council to fulfil its long standing goal of improving youth prospects in the town.
The council will initially lease the building from owners Suffolk County Council with a view to potentially buying it, as the county would not gift the town the building as it did with giving the Chalkstone Middle School site to Care UK.
After Cllr André explained the £300,000 pot, a member of the public asked if it could be used to help pay for the Magistrates’ Court.
Cllr André replied: “Costs have not rocketed as they have not been fully established and we are having a surveyor that will record what the costs are.
“We will pursue income from other grant sources and other government sources.
“We have put aside £200,000 specifically for that property from unspent money we have for youth work over the last three years which was not carried out without the support of other authorities elsewhere.
“The youth hub project was always going to be complicated and we were always determined to not just have a quick fix but a long-term sustainable solution, and that’s what we are working on at this time.”
St Edmundsbury and Suffolk County Cllr Tony Brown asked about the condition of the building amid concerns over the rising cost of the refurbishment before running costs are added.
Cllr André said: “We will have a full briefing next week.
“Clearly it will be a very expensive refit and we do need a range of options.
“Clearly we want to use the costs of the refurbishment to help reduce the costs of having to purchase it.”
Deputy mayor Maureen Byrne said the council remained committed to pressuring the county council into giving Haverhill the building for nothing.
“We still intend to pursue it as a gift, and although it’s not likely to happen that is how we will continue until the very last possible opportunity.”
After the concerns were raised in last week’s Echo that documents such as business plans, risk assessments and budgets, that no one knew how much the refurbishment would cost and if such a facility was even needed, a town council spokesman said results of ‘sensitive negotiations’ would be published at the earliest possible time’.
“Suffolk County Council withdrew its general youth support services and closed Haverhill’s purpose built youth facility (the Burton Centre) by 2012.
“Meanwhile, ONE Haverhill’s ‘community budget’ exercise, in which a large sample of Haverhill’s residents were asked to define their top issues of concern, pointed to the provision of youth services as a most pressing concern for local people.
“This was in spite of the decision by the county council to make youth services part of their budget cuts.
“The exercise also found that the existence of youth services created considerable savings to the local community in terms of policing, employment and the local environment.
“The town council is made up of local people who try hard to reflect local concerns when providing services for Haverhill.
“Therefore Haverhill Town Council reached a decision, in conjunction with ONE Haverhill, to try to continue and extend the provision of youth services for Haverhill.
“Various accommodation options, including use of Bevan House, were examined against the need for a central location with sufficient capacity.
“At this time sensitive negotiations are currently in hand with Suffolk County Council to acquire the former magistrates’ court building which can be adapted for use as a youth hub by ONE Haverhill.
“The town council has put aside from its reserves a sufficient contingency to refurbish the building for its new purpose.
“The outcome of these negotiations will be published at the earliest possible time.”
For all the latest news see Thursday’s (May 8) Echo.