Enfield Borough Council sells Carterhatch Depot to create 2,000 extra primary school places by September 2013
Enfield Borough Council will sell a depot to fund a primary school expansion plan despite claims it will be “disastrous” for the taxpayer.
Politicians fiercely debated the proposals for Carterhatch Depot in Melling Drive last night during an overview and scrutiny committee in Enfield Civic Centre after a call-in by Conservative councillors.
Labour politicians backed the plans to sell the site to project managers Cornerstone despite Conservative claims it will be "disastrous" for the taxpayer.
The council currently uses the depot store its transport fleet and it is in talks to find an alternative site on a long-term lease once the site has been sold.
The money made from the sale will pay for a primary school expansion programme, which will see the creation of 2,000 new places by September next year.
However, Conservative Councillor Michael Lavender, who leads the Cockfosters ward, said he had issues of “grave concern” about the sale of the depot.
Although the amount of money the council will earn from the sale has not been disclosed, he questioned why the site is being sold without planning permission – which he claimed could increase the revenue.
He also asked why the council had selected a “newly formed” company, and said: “This council has decided come what may, it will appoint Cornerstone at all costs.”
He said reports issued by the council about the plans for the depot are “not transparent” and “misleading,” and criticised the administration for publishing original plans for the depot 26 days after they were put forward.
He urged Labour councillors to reconsider the plans, and said: “This is not simply a question of compliance, these are issues of reputation and integrity which each of you individuals have to own and once lost, it’s lost for a lifetime.”
However, members of the Labour administration said their key concern was addressing the demand for primary school places throughout the borough.
Labour deputy leader Cllr Achilleas Georgiou said: “We have an unprecedented increase in demand for school places.
“We have had to move quickly to getting these places filled and providing these places for school children.”
He accused Cllr Lavender of being “rather conservative” in his ideas about how a local authority can attain services, and said the scheme provides “value for money.”
The councillor, who represents Bowes, stressed the integrity of Cornerstone and said the council sought financial advice about whether it provided best value to sell the site with or without planning permission, and the council is acting accordingly.
Andrew Stafford, cabinet member for finance and property, also backed the scheme – saying the sale is a “very creative way” of expanding primary schools for much-needed places across the borough.