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Comment: Council must be transparent and open over the sale of our buildings

We recently reported that Leeds City Council was open to selling up to half its office buildings due to increasing numbers of its staff working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, writes John Baron.

In principle the move makes sense if the buildings are standing empty and unused. And it’s a way for a cash-strapped council facing hundreds of redundancies and a £118 million funding gap to raise much-needed finances.

What was concerning was the apparent lack of transparency in terms of which buildings are being put up for sale.

A council report discussed last week did not outline which buildings would be the first to be sold, but added a confidential list of sites was set to go to auction in October. The list was deemed confidential by the council as the authority argued it might compromise its financial affairs.

All well and good. But could this mean much-loved public buildings like Pudsey Town Hall will be sold essentially without public knowledge, apart from a listing at a property auction which the majority of the public wouldn’t see?

WLD understands Pudsey Town Hall isn’t on the list for October – but common sense tells you that the historically important building (which used to house the magistrates court and still has a beautiful old Pudsey Town Council chamber) is underused and could well be sold at some stage.

Hundreds of Pudsey folk attended an open day at the historic building earlier this year.

Equally, if the council in future starts to look at selling other buildings, such as leisure centres, this also needs to be done openly.

WLD will be monitoring the situation closely for all our buildings across West Leeds – but in the meantime we’re calling for the council to be open and consult the public on its much-loved buildings.

Could there be options for the public to take on the running of some buildings, similar to community led Bramley Baths in 2013?

The public mustn’t discover some of their crown jewels have been sold once private developers move in.

Please support independent community led journalism in West Leeds…

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