15 May 2015: it is reported in the EADT today that the Council will sign a contract with NRG Theatres Ltd. The newspaper report differs in its news to the Freedom of Information response we received recently from the Council. Then it was a straight sale, no holds barred. Which version is true? We must now appeal to the Information Commissioners.
We’d also like a response to our Expression of Interest under Localism Act 2015 – or does the Council just ignore such legal requests?
More attacks on this web site this morning – we are tracing their source, and are grateful that BT Martlesham’s complex has so many experts willing to assist.
Attacks 14 May: Suddenly people are trying to break into the administration area of this site. It’s never happened before.
Not heard from Mr Stephenson yet – we await his demands. Apparently he was concerned that we hadn’t bothered to contact NRG Theatres Ltd: why would we want to do that? There’s nothing that company can do to really help the Spa Pavilion – is there? If there is we’d like to know, as we’ve heard nothing so far.
Rumour 13 May 2015: The grapevine (Liberal Democrat HQ) has heard that Gareth Stephenson of NRG Theatres Ltd is threatening to sue Trevor Lockwood, Mike Ninnmey and the Lib Dems for slander, libel, defamation of character. Not sure why. Everything that has been said has been added to the web site – although we heard this morning that the videos that we gave to Felixstowe TV have been removed from their site.
We make no secret of our opposition to our iconic theatre being handed over to one man (there is still just one director) of NRG Theatres Ltd. He is Ray Anderson. You’ll find material on the site about him – all of it has been in the public domain before – we have deliberately not added the material about him that has been supplied to us that could, in any way, be illegal.
The right of free speech still exists in the country.
We cannot understand how this man can arrive in our town, with no previous connection with this town, and is given a building which has been at the very centre of our town’s culture for generations. There has been no discussion.
The Council has pointedly said they cannot comment until AFTER the alleged contract has been signed. Do they not conform to the Nolan Principles?
We object to being left in the dark – and have submitted a request under the Localism Act 2011 asking to be considered as a group from the Town that can run this complex.
The only response we have had is to be threatened.
Be careful before throwing stones – you might get more than you bargained for!
Where has local democracy gone, so soon after an election?
Beware: we sent the Expression of Interest yesterday to Suffolk Coastal only to find a report by Edmund Crosthwaite in today’s Felixstowe Star that reported that SCDC had not received my request.
The penny dropped eventually. Although the SCDC web site says sends email to suffolkcoastal.gov.uk it seems that some (the difficult ones perhaps) need to be sent to eastsuffolk.gov.uk (whoever they are?).
Now I have to ask the Local Government Ombudsman if that is OK!
Email has now been sent to eastsuffolk.go.uk – we shall wait and see. Thank you Edmund.
6 May 2015 We have just sent the following letter to Suffolk Coastal District Council:
A local group has been formed within the Colneis Peninsular, presently called the Felixstowe Group, but application has been made to create a Community Interest Company. Full details of that title and its founding directors will be sent to you as soon as they are confirmed by Companies House. Our initial brief is to look at the community assets within our area that the local community should be aware of in order to consider Community Asset Transfer, Community Right to Bid and Community Right to Reclaim Land.
We wish to headline an Expression of Interest in the first instance for the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe so that we can prepare a business case to transfer that building, its curtilage and contents to community ownership.
There is now a need to gather evidence to show how the community and local people will benefit from the transfer, and to gather evidence of community support for the transfer. Our continuing interest over the last decade insists that this is a highly-treasured local asset.
SCDC’s Community Asset Transfer Strategy needs to be clearly outlined, and perhaps there have been other transfers nearby which can demonstrate feasibility? That information will be gratefully received.
An initial concern is confirmation that the land and buildings in question really are assets and not liabilities – can they generate enough income to fund repairs, maintenance and ongoing costs? Your help would be invaluable.
We look forward to your confirmation of our Expression of Interest in this building and to beginning constructive discussions.
We fully concur with the Council’s declared policy on Localism and we know that there will be an upsurge of support and local enthusiasm if this iconic building is retained in local ownership.
For now please use this email and address for communications.
To give some background to this submission look at
Under the Community Right to Bid, community groups are able to nominate non-residential buildings or land within their communities as ‘assets of community value’ which cannot be sold without the community group being given the opportunity to put together a bid to purchase the asset.
As the Act advises we have contacted the local authority’s property department to discuss where to start. In most cases the process involves submitting a headline expression of interest, and subject to an invitation from the local authority, developing a business case to show that the community is capable of maintaining and operating the land or building into the future. That’s what we have done
A range of agreements can be entered into – but the most common form is a long leasehold. Often, local authorities will explore shorter-term agreements with newly formed community organisations.
Any voluntary or community group interested in asset transfer will need to:
- Gather evidence to show how the community and local people will benefit from the transfer
- Gather evidence of community support for the transfer
- Check to see if your local authority has a Community Asset Transfer Strategy and if there have been other transfers nearby from which you can learn – check our stories for inspiration
- Check that the land and buildings in question really are assets and not liabilities – they are liabilities if they cannot generate enough income to fund repairs, maintenance and ongoing operational costs.
To Quote from the Suffolk Coastal DC’s web site:
We cannot achieve your priorities on our own. Localism is about collective action and collective responsibility, recognising that we not only all have a part to play in successfully tackling your key priorities but that together we can do it more efficiently and effectively. It requires a dynamic partnership between the citizens that make up our area, the wider public sector, the voluntary and business sectors, and the district Council. Gone is any assumption that the state alone is equipped to run public services or has a monopoly on knowledge and ideas. We recognise that, with support, local people are best placed or qualified to find innovative and more efficient solutions to local problems.
We know that using the wealth of knowledge and energy held by individuals, communities, local councils, public sector staff and the voluntary, charitable and private sectors can be the real driving force in delivering more effective and efficient services for our communities. We have the positive experience of our Local Strategic Partnership and its successes in helping bring together people and organisations that are making a difference in our area. That is why we are determined to create public services that are directly accountable to those who use them, and where providers stand or fall by their ability to deliver a good service, regardless of which sector they are from.
We will therefore work closely with our partners in local government particularly in town and parish councils and at Suffolk County Council, but also in health, education, police and the voluntary, community and business sectors. More importantly, however, we will work more closely with you.
We firmly believe in the importance of public services and the role of local government in helping to build a stronger society and improving everyone’s Quality of Life. We also believe however that there should be space between the state and the individual. This is the space already filled in our area by tradition, community, family, faith, voluntary activity, business and philanthropy. These can all have a more powerful and deep rooted cultural impact on our society than local government can ever achieve – increasing choice and opportunity while also promoting the virtues of fairness, mutual dependence, duty and responsibility.
The Council will therefore trust and help more individuals and communities to take even greater control and responsibility for themselves. We already have an excellent Localism track record in empowering local communities to do things their way. We will go further however, building upon the local energy that already exists. Importantly however we also believe in fair access to public services; so where individuals are currently too vulnerable to help themselves, then we will continue to protect and support them, keeping them free from the risk of harm.
We have asked for the following information:
The Local Government Transparency Code (2014) sets out the minimum data that local authorities should be publishing, the frequency it should be published and how it should be published. A part of the Code deals with the publication of data on land and building assets, the availability of which should make it easier for local people to contribute to local decision making processes.
Under part 2 of the Code it is mandatory for Local authorities to publish details of all land and building assets including:
- all service and office properties occupied or controlled by user bodies, both freehold and leasehold
- any properties occupied or run under Private Finance Initiative contracts
- all other properties they own or use, for example, hostels, laboratories, investment properties and depots
- garages unless rented as part of a housing tenancy agreement
- surplus, sublet or vacant properties
- undeveloped land
- serviced or temporary offices where contractual or actual occupation exceeds three months, and
- all future commitments, for example under an agreement for lease, from when the contractual commitment is made.
Part 3 of the Code sets out details of data that the Government recommends local authorities publish, which goes further than the minimum requirements in Part 2. Regarding land and building assets, the recommended data for publication includes:
- size of the asset
- services offered from the asset
- reason for holding asset
- whether or not the asset is either one which is an asset in the authority’s ownership that is listed under Part 5 Chapter 3 of the Localism Act 2011 (assets of community value) and/or an asset which the authority is actively seeking to transfer to the community
- total building operation (revenue) costs
- required maintenance
- functional suitability rating
- energy performance rating.
For more information, see the Local Government Transparency Code.