Council leader says move from Observatory House is 'almost certain'

The leader of Slough Borough Council (SBC) has said it is ‘almost certain’ that the council will have to move out of its current building as it looks to resolve its financial situation.

Cllr James Swindlehurst (Lab and Co-Op, Cippenham Green) discussed a potential move out of Observatory House at an annual council meeting on Thursday, May 19.

The council currently needs to sell £600million of its £1.2bn asset base to help steady its financial situation.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Swindlehurst said: “We have a very challenging situation. We have significant asset sales.

“We will be left only with the minimal operational buildings that we need to function and provide some core services from. “We need to review our strategies in light of that.”

He added: “We will be conducting a review of whether we can continue to occupy or own this building.

“It’s very, very likely we will be moving out, almost certain.

“The question is whether we’re using it as a commercial lease for somebody else or whether we sell it and what is the best decision for the council.”

During the meeting, leader of the opposition, Cllr Dexter Smith (Con, Colnbrook and Poyle) accused the Labour Group of ‘hiding in the shadows’.

He said: “It’s really important that the people of Slough understand the gravity of the situation.”

Cllr Smith highlighted statements from the commissioner’s review, stating that – after removing schools, parks and infrastructure that can’t be sold – selling £600million of assets requires disposing of ‘most of the council property holdings without exception’.

The review added: “This is a very stark picture, and it is a direct consequence of the decisions taken and errors made in the past. They cannot be undone. All the council can do now is put things right.”

Cllr Smith said: “Sooner or later, the Labour Party running Slough will need to come out of the shadows.

“Too much of what they have done has been kept behind closed doors and unspoken. Some of that began to be exposed during the election campaign.”

In response, Cllr Safdar Ali (Lab, Central) said that as far as he knew since joining the council in 2018, ‘everything has been discussed openly, transparently and the opposition has had the opportunity to contribute in any discussion, debate or proposals’.

Cllr Pavitar Mann (Lab and Co-Op, Britwell and Northborough), added: “This Labour Group communicated to 28-and-a-half thousand residents in the period before the election.

“We had hundreds of conversations, face-to-face on people’s doorsteps about the financial issues facing the council.

“I’m not going to sit here and pretend that residents aren’t concerned and have very real concerns about the council’s financial positions.

“We had hundreds of conversations where they shared those concerns with us, so I don’t understand what shadows he’s referring to.

“But the fact remains that even then, even with the context of everything that this chamber has seen discussed tonight and will no doubt be discussed over the coming months, Slough residents still do not trust the Tories to take our town forward.”

She added: “We are taking full ownership and responsibility for these issues.

“We are very upfront about the fact that it is very bleak. We face a very tough and very painful uphill battle and with the decisions that are going to have to be made to get us back on to recovery.

“We’ve never hid away from that.”

During the meeting Cllr Dilbagh S. Parmar (Lab and Co-op, Cippenham Meadows) was elected as the new mayor for the municipal year 2022/23, and Cllr Haqeeq Dar (Lab, Wexham Lea) was elected as the Deputy Mayor for the same period.

The leader of Slough Borough Council (SBC) has said it is ‘almost certain’ that the council will have to move out of its current building as it looks to resolve its financial situation.

Cllr James Swindlehurst (Lab and Co-Op, Cippenham Green) discussed a potential move out of Observatory House at an annual council meeting on Thursday, May 19.

The council currently needs to sell £600million of its £1.2bn asset base to help steady its financial situation.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Swindlehurst said: “We have a very challenging situation. We have significant asset sales.

“We will be left only with the minimal operational buildings that we need to function and provide some core services from. “We need to review our strategies in light of that.”

He added: “We will be conducting a review of whether we can continue to occupy or own this building.

“It’s very, very likely we will be moving out, almost certain.

“The question is whether we’re using it as a commercial lease for somebody else or whether we sell it and what is the best decision for the council.”

During the meeting, leader of the opposition, Cllr Dexter Smith (Con, Colnbrook and Poyle) accused the Labour Group of ‘hiding in the shadows’.

He said: “It’s really important that the people of Slough understand the gravity of the situation.”

Cllr Smith highlighted statements from the commissioner’s review, stating that – after removing schools, parks and infrastructure that can’t be sold – selling £600million of assets requires disposing of ‘most of the council property holdings without exception’.

The review added: “This is a very stark picture, and it is a direct consequence of the decisions taken and errors made in the past. They cannot be undone. All the council can do now is put things right.”

Cllr Smith said: “Sooner or later, the Labour Party running Slough will need to come out of the shadows.

“Too much of what they have done has been kept behind closed doors and unspoken. Some of that began to be exposed during the election campaign.”

In response, Cllr Safdar Ali (Lab, Central) said that as far as he knew since joining the council in 2018, ‘everything has been discussed openly, transparently and the opposition has had the opportunity to contribute in any discussion, debate or proposals’.

Cllr Pavitar Mann (Lab and Co-Op, Britwell and Northborough), added: “This Labour Group communicated to 28-and-a-half thousand residents in the period before the election.

“We had hundreds of conversations, face-to-face on people’s doorsteps about the financial issues facing the council.

“I’m not going to sit here and pretend that residents aren’t concerned and have very real concerns about the council’s financial positions.

“We had hundreds of conversations where they shared those concerns with us, so I don’t understand what shadows he’s referring to.

“But the fact remains that even then, even with the context of everything that this chamber has seen discussed over the previous year, everything that will be discussed tonight and no doubt will be discussed over the coming months, Slough residents still do not trust the Tories to take our town forward.”

She added: “We are taking full ownership and responsibility for these issues.

“We are very upfront about the fact that it is very bleak. We face a very tough and very painful uphill battle and with the decisions that are going to have to be made to get us back on to recovery.

“We’ve never hid away from that.”

During the meeting Cllr Dilbagh S. Parmar (Lab and Co-op, Cippenham Meadows) was elected as the new mayor for the municipal year 2022/23, and Cllr Haqeeq Dar (Lab, Wexham Lea) was elected as the Deputy Mayor for the same period.

Editor's Picks

Most read

Top Articles