COUNCILLORS clashed at a fiery meeting as the keys to Laindon Community Centre were finally handed over ahead of a potential opening this weekend.

The Laindon Community Centre, on Aston Road, has been the centre of controversy for months, with consistent delays to its reopening.

Yesterday, the keys to the centre, which is ‘less than half complete’, were handed over to newly registered charity the Laindon Community Centre – a community group formed to run the centre.

A grand opening has been touted for Saturday, however snagging needs to be completed before that can become a reality.

The charity has signed a 25-year lease on the building, but fears have been raised the centre lacks a fully formed business plan.

Labour councillor Maryam Yaqub took aim at the Conservative administration over its handling of the project.

“We are handing over a lease for 25 years, but we have not seen a business plan,” she said in a fiery exchange with committee chairman councillor Terri Sargent who accused Ms Yaqub not knowing how community centres are run.

A council officer admitted the council could not provide a business plan because “we don’t know what the whole building looks like, only half of it has been completed.”

Independent councillor Kerry Smith ramped up pressure saying that the elements left to be constructed in phase two of the build were the ones that would keep it afloat financially.

“The bar was continuously losing money before it closed,” he said. “If this was financed by a bank the last part to get a many would be the bar. It would be the over 50 groups, the activities, the gyms, the things that keep the place solvent in the first place, and we won’t see those until god knows when.”

With phase one of construction complete, with the function hall, main hall, bar and toilets reopened, council documents state phase two is reliant on funding from the 2022/23 budget.

Defending the delays, Ms Sargent said: “We could not have opened up sooner, it would have been impossible. You can see from the works on the building why it has taken so long.”