Civic Centre row: Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas slams ‘Barking only’ council cabinet
- Credit: Archant
Dagenham residents are being gagged with no one to speak up for them on the council, MP Jon Cruddas has claimed in a fierce attack on the borough’s new administration.
The statement comes off the back of an announcement last week by newly elected council leader Darren Rodwell about early plans to turn Dagenham’s council-owned Civic Centre into a school.
In an exclusive statement to the Post, the Dagenham and Rainham MP tore into the council’s new leadership, saying: “I am extremely disappointed at the makeup of the new executive, with no representation from my Dagenham constituency.
“In the coming weeks and months I will be doing all I can to ensure that Dagenham residents are not cast aside.”
The MP claimed not to have been told of the plans and described hearing about them as “alarming”.
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He said: “As this historic building is part of my constituency the least I deserve is the courtesy of being told of any future plans rather than rumours and phone calls from worried residents.
“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.”
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Responding to Mr Cruddas in a bid to halt the widening division within his party, Cllr Rodwell said he welcomed the statement but added: “I cannot accept the comment regarding the make up of the new cabinet and its lack of representation.”
Defending his choice of cabinet, Cllr Rodwell said half its members were “living in the Dagenham area”.
He made no reference to the fact none of the five was actually a member of Mr Cruddas’s Dagenham and Rainham group.
“After I was elected leader,” he went on, “my main concern was to get the right team together for the challenges facing the borough.”
He added: “Pitting Dagenham against Barking doesn’t address the challenges we face as a borough, or help us balance the books and protect vital services.”
Attacking plans for a new school on the site of the civic centre, Mr Cruddas acknowledged the need for more classrooms in the borough but said Dagenham “doesn’t have a school places problem”, adding many schools in the area were operating under capacity.
He added Eastbrook Comprehensive, All Saints, Robert Clack, John Perry and William Bellamy had recently received “a massive cash investment” towards taking on more pupils.
Cllr Rodwell replied: “The option of transforming the Civic Centre into a school is just one of many suggestions coming from staff.
“The way the council delivers services has changed in recent years. For example, we have the one stop shops in the Heathway and in Barking town centre and staff working in different ways.
“This begs the question: ‘Why do we need two administrative centres at a cost of around £1.3 million per year to taxpayer?’”
He added he would welcome a meeting with Mr Cruddas.