Essential work to secure future of Hackney Town Hall
Following local press reports, Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, explains why the essential health, safety and maintenance works have been undertaken to Hackney Town Hall.
Hackney Town Hall, which is 80 years old this year, is one of the finest Art Deco buildings in East London and we are pleased that we’ve have been able to bring this important building fully back into use as a community asset.
Since December 2012, we have undertaken essential health, safety and maintenance works, overseen by Historic England, to tackle a backlog of issues that have built up since it was first built.
Some of the work that’s taken place includes: the replacement of electrical wiring from the 1930s which posed a significant risk of fire, the removal of asbestos, the repair of leaking windows and balconies and repairs to some of the stonework which was in a state of disrepair. Most of the building was also not accessible or DDA compliant, did not meet current health and safety regulations and was not energy efficient or environmentally friendly.
Other local authorities have sold off some their most important and precious buildings after years of underinvestment, or neglect, after continued budget cuts from Central Government. This wasn’t an option for the Council. We want to keep our Town Hall for its civic value and the important role it plays in the lives of local residents who have been married, registered a new member of the family or have become a British citizen at the Town Hall. It is also a space where key decisions about Council services are made with discussion and debate. Without taking action now the Council would have continued spending money on simply patching up the Town Hall, most of which was unusable, diverting much-needed funding from other areas.
I know it isn’t easy for people to hear about the Council spending money on its own buildings, when at the same time residents are being told about the need to make further savings or the challenges of responding to homelessness. However, I want to reassure residents that the money for the Town Hall works has not been taken away from the day-to-day running of Council services, or our plans to investment in homes, schools, parks, or other projects. We’ve used money that was set aside in our capital programme to pay for these works.
It is not unusual for a historic building, and for a project of this size, that work that may not have been planned at the beginning is then added during the course of the project. Again, these additional works have been funded from our capital programme and will also prevent further works to the building in the future that would cause significant disruption and damage to the Town Hall.
The works, which are now at last coming to an end, enable greater use of the Town Hall, increasing office space by 60% and significantly increasing the amount of usable public and civic space available. The works are also helping the Council to save money as part of an ongoing programme to reduce the number of buildings that the Council uses by making a better use of existing spaces; the capitalised value of the Council buildings that will be released, the revenue costs saved from simply not continuing to spend money on assets in poor condition, and the new revenues generated from the refurbished Town Hall will recover the monies spent on the Town Hall many times over.
At the end of the wider programme, the Council will have moved from occupying a series of shabby to near derelict buildings, costing in excess of £3M a year, to a position of occupying modern, efficient space. This was crucial to the original decision to restoring the Town Hall and will create from those vacated buildings new opportunities to generate more than £2m a year towards front line Council services. This is a process we have recently gone through when the Council vacated Kelton House on Mare Street, that used to cost us money to manage and will soon generate more than a £1m to support services.
I have asked for a review of the final stages of the project, including a clear timeline of when it will reopen, and will continue to work with colleagues across the Council to ensure the cost of the Town Hall works remains within the new budget set for this important and complex project.
I want everyone in Hackney to experience and enjoy our Town Hall which will remain a focal point for the borough and its communities for generations to come. Later this year, when it reopens I can’t wait to invite residents to return to our newly refurbished Town Hall and see the improvements and new spaces for themselves.
Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney