Redbridge party leaders clash over plans to move music and drama services to Vision

Leader of the Tories Cllr Paul Canal, left, and leader of the council Cllr Jas Athwal, right, traded

Leader of the Tories Cllr Paul Canal, left, and leader of the council Cllr Jas Athwal, right, traded blows over the proposals to transfer Redbridge Music Service and Redbridge Drama Centre to Vision. - Credit: Archant

Plans to transfer the control of two of Redbridge’s key music and drama services to the council’s leisure arm have sparked a political row between the two main parties today.

Redbridge Music Service playing music in protest of February's proposed cuts. Picture: Ajay Nair

Redbridge Music Service playing music in protest of February's proposed cuts. Picture: Ajay Nair - Credit: Archant

The council held a press briefing yesterday revealing the proposal to move the operations of Redbridge Music Service and Redbridge Drama Centre to Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure, the company which manages facilities and services in the borough such as parks.

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal told the Recorder the move was to protect “the long term future” of the projects.

The press were informed the news was embargoed until Thursday, allowing the administration to speak with stakeholders of both services beforehand.

But Redbridge Conservative group leader Cllr Paul Canal issued a press release earlier today after claiming the plan had been leaked on Friday by a supposed “disgruntled Labour councillor”.


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In the release he said: “The administration’s obsession with secrecy has consistently led to poor decision making. Last year they were forced into a humiliating U-turn.”

In February this year proposals were dropped to outsource Redbridge Music Service’s instrument centre, based in Barkingside, which would have saved £166,650.

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Cllr Canal continued: “At no point have they tried to engage with stakeholders whilst they conspired to transfer these services out of Redbridge control, demonstrating simply disgraceful arrogance.”

The Tory leader has called for an extraordinary meeting so stakeholders and councillors can examine the plans, adding: “Redbridge is not Labour’s private fiefdom.”

Responding to the Cllr Canal’s comments Cllr Athwal said: “The suggestion that these plans are secret is very misleading. There have been meetings in place for some time to brief staff and friends of groups this week, and the press have also already been informed so the news can be made public this week, once staff know.

“No decision has been made or could have been made for the very reason that we need to speak to staff, service users and other residents as part of the process.”

Cllr Athwal said a report will go to the service committee and cabinet adding: “To suggest that every decision is secret just because proposals haven’t been announced yet is absolute nonsense. Turning what is initial consultation and feasibility work into a political football given the sensitivities is inappropriate, Cllr Canal should hang his head in shame.”

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