Wed, 31 Aug 2016
THE political divide over the Priory has intensified, with Mr Dillon going on the attack over a lack of consultation.
All Conservatives present at last week’s meeting – Steve Ardargh-Walter, Dominic Boeck, John Chelliah, Jason Collis, Jan Cover, Sheila Ellison, Julie Goode, Nathan Gregory and Anne Johnson – voted against carrying out a public consultation on selling the building.
Angered by the decision, Mr Dillon claimed the Conservatives were afraid of asking the public for their views.
He said: “What right have they got to overturn a decision that was consulted on at the purchase and refurbishment stage?
“What right have they got to undo all of that work without asking the public again?”
“I think they’re fearful that the public would say they want to keep it, that’s why they’re not asking.”
The Conservatives also turned down Mr Dillon’s request for a reviewed business plan.
Mr Dillon said the unwillingness to carry out a fresh look in the wake of post-Brexit economics was “a dereliction of duty as councillors at receiving best value”.
“How do they know selling is the best deal?” he asked.
He also questioned whether the sale and the end of the Lib Dem project was ideologically driven, despite him saying that purchasing the Priory stemmed from Thatcham Vision and was not a Lib Dem scheme.
“I’m really disappointed that they won’t even stop and have another look,” he said. “We will keep calling for them to stop and look again.
“Hopefully they are not just saying they’re going to look at other options.
“But if they’re looking at renting it out, why not look at the possibility of renting it to your community?”
Hitting back, town council leader Jason Collis (Con, Thatcham North) said that the Conservatives had nothing to be afraid of.
He said that the Liberal Democrats’ petition to save the building had mustered 400 signatures out of Thatcham’s 28,000 residents.
Letters were also received from the headteacher of Kennet School, Paul Dick, and Dr Nick Young of Thatcham Historical Society, asking the town council not to sell.
“That’s two people’s opinion out of a population of around 28,000 and we are elected to represent the whole parish,” Mr Collis said.
“Everybody’s views are taken into account but we have to take into account what’s best for the parish and town.
“I can’t see the point in delaying this any longer.”
Mr Collis said that the town council would be considering the financial implications of all options, which included renting the building.
He said: “The situation has changed now and we will be looking at options again, which is no different to what the Lib Dems are asking us to do.”