Public Service HUB
You may have heard that West Suffolk Council wants to build a so-called public service hub on the western side of town. They claim it’ll improve services by bringing them all together under one roof. But the cost has already spiralled to £91 million, and it’s estimated it could go as high as £132 million, or even more. To many local people, it just looks like a massive vanity project.
So we need to ask whether we can afford it, what’s it for, and whether we couldn’t use the resources going into it for things that actually help the residents of Bury.
Massive Queues for NHS Services
People have been asking me what’s it for? According to council chiefs it’s to bring together some health services into a central place. This is claimed to be able to improve services. But it just doesn’t stack up. There are massive queues for NHS services, but this won’t help.
Will there be more dentists in Bury than before? Will there be more child psychologists? Will there be more community nurses and midwives? No, no and no.
We don’t need another building, we need more health professionals to deliver the services. And anyway, isn’t there already a health service hub in the town – it’s called a hospital! And it’s more convenient for most people to go to their local GP practice. That way they won’t add to the terrible traffic congestion along Western Way.
Well, it’s always nice to have shiny new things, isn’t it? And even if we don’t actually need it, we would have a nice new building to show off. The trouble is, we can’t afford it.
Cost is Eye-watering
The cost is eye-watering. It’ll cost £4 million this year, over £35 million next year and a colossal £38.8 million in 2024. With more – lots more – to go after that. All this in the context of a projected budget overspend of £2.98 million in 2025/26. Just for context that’s nearly three million pounds the council will have to find to balance the books. So it’s either put up council tax (again), put up bin and parking charges (yet again), or make deep cuts to local services (can they cut back any more?).
Of course the Western Way site is a valuable resource, so it can’t be left to rot. But think of the benefits the cash could bring – for directly managed housing so that our children could afford to stay in the town. Proper park and ride provision, perhaps? Insulating local homes to help the climate? Or simply to help local people cope with the cost of living crisis by keeping charges and council tax lower.
What Can We Do About It?
So what can we do about it? Is it too late to stop it? There’s a tipping point with these giant projects where it suddenly becomes cheaper to finish it than give up and accept it was all a big illusion. We’re not there yet, but with local elections a long way off, the ruling Conservatives are hoping they can get to the tipping point before then. And everyone knows that when you write to a Conservative politician you just get the standard party line in reply. But they are now more divided than ever. So letting your councillor know how you feel might just make them see sense and go against the hub. So, please email your councillor and tell them the game is up. We don’t want our money wasted like this.
The other thing you can do is talk about the hub with your friends, family and work colleagues. Whether you do that in person or through social media, the message will come through loud and clear: we can’t afford the Western Way Hub, it serves no use, and we don’t want to be saddled with a massive white elephant of a building.
I’m not going to stand by and watch all this money be wasted. I’ll be speaking out and voting against the council’s budget. I hope you’ll add your voice. Say ‘no to the hub’ before it’s too late.
Councillor Cliff Waterman