Row breaks out over proposed Bangladeshi community centre
10:00 23 July 2014
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A proposal to convert the former Argyle Street Annex of Suffolk College into a new centre run by Ipswich’s Bangladeshi community has come under fire from the opposition at the borough council.
The council is to buy the building and then transfer it to the Bangladeshi Support Centre on a 15-year lease.
That is then seeking a £100,000 grant from the National Lottery to repair and upgrade the building.
The move was approved by last week’s meeting of the borough council executive, but the opposition Conservative group has called for the decision to be reconsidered by the borough’s overview and scrutiny committee.
They are concerned that the normal length of time for a council lease is five years – and they are concerned that if the lottery bid is unsuccessful the council could be left with a building that cannot be used.
Opposition leader Nadia Cenci said: “Conservatives are concerned at the way this proposal has been handled by the council.
“We want to make sure that Labour have given proper regard to the risks of borrowing this money and that they have not loaded the Bangladeshi Support Centre with an ongoing financial commitment that they cannot afford. “We also want to ensure that the Council can’t be accused by other community groups of showing preferential treatment to a key voting group in the run up to the General Election.”
However council leader David Ellesmere dismissed the fears – and said the building would be used by several groups, not just the Bangladeshi Support Centre.
He said: “These groups are currently housed in 19 Tower Street and need more space. We needed to offer a 15-year lease to enable the Bangladeshi Support Group to have the security to raise the money it needed to take over the building.
“They will be the tenants, but will sub-let part of it to other groups.”
He said the rent would cover the cost of the loan the council would need – and the lottery grant was not crucial.
“The lottery money would help improve the building, but it is not in too bad a condition and is certainly ready for use. There is no real issue about this – it will be a welcome new facility for many communities,” he said.