I have little doubt that 2012 will see a big move forward in the building of the long awaited extension to the Grovesnor Centre, and as a result local politicians will crow their success in rescuing the town centre, others will be quick to welcome a positive sign for future prosperity for our town. But what will actually be built? And who will have really paid the bill? And what will be the long term costs to local tax payers?
I was a member of Northampton Borough Council when it signed its "historic" deal with Legal and General and as leader of the Independent group I was shown the details within the contract, Because of a commercial confidentiality clause I was prohibited from revealing the details, however I can still express an opinion without having to divulge the figures.
I have already intimated in public that I believe that the price paid by Legal and General for the Bus station and surrounding land packages was far too cheap, yes this deal was done in the height of the recession, but the over eagerness of the politicians to do a deal at any cost in my mind gifted the land and property to L&G at a price they could not refuse.
Moreover the deal as we now have had revealed, left the cost of moving the Bus Station and the cost of it's replacement together with the cost of paying off the existing tenants at the bus station (Stagecoach) solely with the council, and ultimately you and me, local taxpayers.
Why Stagecoach were ever given such a long and rewarding lease in the first place is a complete mystery to me, after all I remember when they sold there own bus station on the Bedford road for housing development and then turned up overnight to park their buses at the councils bus stations as squatters with no rights at all. But now we must pay them £5.5m to move out!
If any new Labour Cllrs at the Town Hall want to make a name for themselves I suggest they submit the following questions to the Council:
What is our current surface and multi-storey Car Parking land holding in Northampton Town Centre?
How much of that is included in the sale of Land to Legal and General?
What is the current annual income from those car parks proposed to be transferred to L&G?
What annual income will the Council recieve from these car parks thereafter? and:
Who will make up any difference in revenue?
So overall in my view L&G seem to have done very well out of the council, a knock down price paid for the land, the taxpayer picking up all the costs of moving the bus station, a potential new income from car parking, not to mention the new rents from any new stores attracted into the new build (hopefully not from the existing high street)
But I still fear a further twist, what's the betting that what is finally delivered is but shadow of what was originally proposed? A scaled down version of all of those iconic plans so far revealed?
It is my view that the both the last Liberal Democrat and the current Conservative administrations at the Town Hall have both been so blinded by the desire to deliver something, that they will in fact accept anything. It is also my belief that we the taxpayer will in the end pay the most for their weak negotiating skills.
I suggest to both groups that if they want to prove me wrong then we can always examine the deal line by line in an open scrutiny committee so the public can judge for themselves whether we are getting value for money from this whole fiasco.
I have long held the view that in any multi million pound negotiations that if both parties say that they are so much in agreement then in reality only one party is actually doing the thinking and as a consequence only one party will come out on top.
On that score I guess I should congratulate Legal and General on their adeptness and savour-faire and commiserate with the public for having to pick up the bill.
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