Darlington Tory leader accuses Labour group of 'neglecting' council assets (From The Advertiser Series)
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Darlington Tory leader accuses Labour group of 'neglecting' council assets
THE leader of Darlington’s Conservative group has accused the ruling Labour group at the council of neglecting public buildings in the town and allowing them to fall into disrepair.
Councillor Heather Scott claimed that 15 years of Labour rule at Darlington Borough Council had left key facilities such as the former arts centre, the town hall, the indoor market and the Civic Theatre all at a point where they need major investment if they are to survive.
Senior members of the Labour group rejected Coun Scott’s claims, and argued that the Labour group was forced to spend years and millions of pounds rebuilding schools across the borough after years of Tory neglect before it could consider other assets.
The row took place as members of the council’s cabinet discussed a report outlining the work and investment needed at Darlington’s Civic Theatre.
The expert report warned that the building, on Parkgate, is not fit for purpose and needs significant expenditure and modernisation if it is to attract theatre companies in future.
Coun Scott said: “I can’t help but wonder what will be the next building that will be declared ‘not fit for purpose’. First there was the arts centre, the indoor market we know needs a lot of work, the town hall needs investment and now the Civic Theatre.
“You [the Labour group] has been in control for a very long time. We keep having these reports brought to us about neglect of local authority assets.
“I hope we can get funding to keep it going - it’s important to preserve this theatre.”
In response, Coun Steve Harker, Labour deputy leader, said: “We [the Labour group] have spent the last 15 years rebuilding our schools that were left in a shocking state when we came to power in 1997.
“We have also refurbished the Dolphin Centre in that time. We had a lot of difficult choices about where to spend the capital that we have had.”
Members agreed to release £50,000 of funding for the first stage of a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to help with the refurbishment.