Earlier this year it came to light via the local press that the leader of the council, Cllr Darren Rodwell was considering different possibilities concerning the future of the Civic Centre in Dagenham. As part of the £53.5 million cuts being imposed by the Tory-Lib-Dem Coalition there was a suggestion that the Civic Centre should be converted into a school at a saving of £600,000 for the borough.
There was a lot of rumour and speculation at the time and MP Jon Cruddas was overwhelmed with enquiries from concerned residents. In response to residents queries Jon Cruddas launched a public consultation, as he has done with other large local issues such as the future of our post offices and the prison proposals.
Over 1600 surveys have been returned with more still coming in – the survey asked if people wanted the Civic Centre to be used for another purpose, to which 91 said YES. 112 people said they think more information is required, but with over 1400 local residents saying they want the Civic Centre to remain as it is, providing even more local services – the people of Dagenham made their voice loud and clear.
The sale of the Civic Centre has been a hot topic throughout the councils’ consultation period which has now come to a close. Following many suggestions being tabled; the Leader of the Council, Cllr Darren Rodwell has stated that the Civic Centre will continue to operate in the same capacity moving forward.
Jon Cruddas MP felt that it was important not just for residents to tick a box, but to have a chance to express what the Civic Centre means to them personally – Jon Commented: “the stories, and memories that have flooded into my office have been very moving.”
Regarding the results of the survey and the recent decision Jon responded: “As the MP for Dagenham & Rainham, I am very grateful and pleased with the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet’s response; taking the overwhelming opinions of the residents of Dagenham into consideration and protecting public services.
“The comments we had from Dagenham residents highlighted the strong feeling surrounding the building and its function in the community. One resident commented: “The Civic Centre serves a purpose that cannot be quantified. It is a symbol of Dagenham.” Others reminisced about the grand opening event in 1937; “I was 8 years old and remember the fountains, we all got a free ticket to the Mayfair Pictures and a green pencil.” There were also over 100 references to the Civic Centre being the ‘Heart of Dagenham’.
“I hope all the borough councillors listen to their residents when they consider future budget proposals. The coalition government are handing down terrible cuts, but certain things are not just about money- they are about the character of our community.”