This was first published on newly created The Basildon Bugle Facebook page. Trust us, this is a page that will definitely be worth following:)

After some considerable delay, Basildon Council today announced that the controversial Laindon Community Centre will be back open “soon”.

Last year the keys were handed back to the Council by the Community Association that had been running it, amid rows over appropriation of money and future funding.

This was followed by a community campaign to save the centre, in which Laindon locals accused Gavin Callaghan’s administration of vandalising the building to justify knocking it down. There were other rumours that Indie Councillor Kerry Smith had attempted to buy the plot and other accusations of shady dealings with developers.

However, Callaghan’s administration claimed they had every intention of refurbishing the centre and handing it back to the community. Previously Callaghan had claimed there were problems with drugs at the centre and that the building itself was dangerous and not fit for purpose.

Rumours were also in circulation that the Council had no wish to re-instate the bar at the centre, because of alleged drug dealing taking place there and other complaints around noise and disturbances.

The local community were not prepared to trust Callaghan’s very publicly stated intentions to save the centre and campaigned against Callaghan’s Labour, even going so far as to print and deliver their own leaflets urging Laindon residents not to vote for Labour, during the May 2021 Borough election campaigns.

Desperate to take the Laindon seat, the Conservatives were opportunistic and promised that if they were returned to power, they would completely refit the centre and have it open by September this year.

The Tories were returned to power in May and quickly set about ploughing enormous sums of money into refurbishing the centre. Initially a £2 million figure was quoted, however they have since topped up the funding on at least one occasion, with the final figure to allow the centre to re-open possibly currently edging towards a whopping £3 million. It could be even higher, by the time the centre actually opens.

Many critics of the Conservative approach have suggested that the whole exercise represents the most expensive “buying” of votes in the history of Basildon politics. Others have asked what has happened to the plans to provide a new community centre in with the new mixed use Laindon shopping centre development.

This story will no doubt continue for some time. One to watch indeed.

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