Civic Centre row: Barking MP Margaret Hodge wades in with calls for “united borough”

MP Margaret Hodge's rising profile

MP Margaret Hodge's rising profile - Credit: Archant

MP Margaret Hodge has waded into the debate over Dagenham’s Civic Centre threatening to split apart the borough’s Labour party, calling for a “united borough”.

The art deco building in Wood Lane

The art deco building in Wood Lane - Credit: Archant

The Post this week revealed council leader Darren Rodwell’s early plans to empty the centre of its 550 staff and site a school there.

Now the Barking MP has responded to claims made by her fellow Labour politician Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and Rainham, that Dagenham constituents have “no voice” on the council cabinet, saying: “I have no idea what Jon is on about.”

Mr Cruddas made his claims in a statement yesterday, saying he was “extremely disappointed” at the makeup of the cabinet under new leader Cllr Darren Rodwell and insisting there was “no representation from my Dagenham constituency”.

Referencing the recent changes to the borough’s parliamentary boundaries, which now see 11 out of 17 of the borough’s wards fall into the Barking constituency, Mrs Hodge added: “As he knows, most of Dagenham is in the Barking constituency – just as his constituency is called Dagenham yet much of it is in Havering.

Barking and Dagenham Council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell (L) and Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas

Barking and Dagenham Council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell (L) and Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas (Jon Cruddas pic: PA Wire) - Credit: Archant

“The new leader and half the new cabinet represent and live in Dagenham wards.”

The Public Accounts Committee chairman went on: “I really do not like any suggestion of a Barking/Dagenham divide.

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“I have represented most of Barking and Dagenham for many years and we are a united borough in spirit, and in practice – just think how many people live in Dagenham and send their kids to school or go to work in Barking, or vice versa.”

The row broke out after the Post revealed Cllr Rodwell’s early plans to turn Dagenham Civic Centre, at the junction of Rainham Road North and Wood Lane, into a school.

Describing the news as “alarming”, Mr Cruddas also expressed anger at not having been informed of the plans, given the art deco building lies within his constituency.

Although acknowledging the schools places crisis gripping the borough he called into question the need for another facility in Dagenham, adding many schools in the area were “actually operating under capacity”.

He added: “I want to make it very clear that if any measures are taken against this iconic part of Dagenham’s history I will not just let it slide by.”

Mrs Hodge, now in her 20th year as MP for Barking, also touched on the Civic Centre plans in her comment claiming it was a “matter for the new council”.

But she added: “Services must be run for the benefit of local people, not for the convenience of those in the town hall. We have to be open-minded about ways of meeting challenges such as the desperate need for new school places in the borough.”

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Council leader reveals early plans to turn Dagenham Civic Centre into schoolCivic Centre row: Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas slams ‘Barking only’ council cabinet