Ms Edwina Crowley, Head of Asset Management introduced the report and advised the meeting about the review work that had been undertaken by the asset team with regards to council assets in the context of the operational costs for managing those assets.
Responding to the proposals in the report the Panel raised questions and made comments as follows:
· The report was a fair reflection of the current status of the council assets under consideration;
· The boiler in the Margate Town Hall (Mayor’s Parlour) kept breaking down and being repaired by TDC at high cost, instead of replacing the boiler;
· At one point the Mayor’s Office had to be relocated to a different location for about 8 weeks during which time the boiler was being fixed;
· The building was continuing to deteriorate;
· The Dickens House Museum had been bequeathed with £50k. Was the issue regarding those funds resolved so that they could be used for maintaining the building?
· The Town Hall had a lot of potential. Why was it taking until about 2020 to conclude the disposal process;
· Could Council apply to the national lottery fund to pay for the maintenance of the buildings under review?
· Could Council employ an expert who could explore the option for setting up a joint venture with an established museum to run the local museums?
· These properties were assets of community value and had to be protected;
· Marketing a building that was gifted to the public in perpetuity could not be supported.
Speaking under Council Procedure 20.1, Councillor Dellar made a statement on the background and significance of the Margate Town Hall to the local community.
In response to Member observations and questions Ms Crowley said the following:
· There was no money allocated in the budget for the significant works to be undertaken on the Margate Town Hall and Museum;
· However some emergency works on gutters and windows are being carried out by the Facilities management and projects team;;
· The reasons for the closure of the Margate Town Hall were believe to be due to the a fire risk assessment but records would be checked;
· The Boiler in the Town Hall was condemned;
· With regards to Dickens House Museum, the Executor was still holding the funds bequeathed to the Museum;
· With regards to the seemingly long decision making process, the Council needed to take time to come to a decision as there was a significant amount of work to be done to ensure the right decision was finally made;
· The council wanted to use the most transparent approach in managing the disposals process for the assets in question and that process would involve going to tender in order to identify the most suitable organisation to operate the buildings.
After some considerable debate on the report Councillor Johnston proposed, Councillor Linda Potts seconded and Members agreed the following:
Before making a decision on the assets, Cabinet had to consider the following courses of action:
1. Fully investigate the full legalities and history of the buildings;
2. Establish when the £50k funds bequeathed to Dickens House would be made available to be used for the maintenance of the Museum and whether TDC had the right to dispose of the building.
Mr Howes advised the meeting that TDC had authority to make the decisions being proposed in the officer report regarding the Town Hall and that Members could also study the related documents lodged in the Lands Registry to confirm that view.