Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Tories set to reverse decision to save Camelford Leisure Centre

Last week, a key Cornwall Council committee voted to save Camelford Leisure Centre. But the Conservative led administration appear to have decided to ignore that decision and cast the facility adrift from April.

As I blogged, the Communities Scrutiny Committee voted 8-2 to include Camelford as a permanent part of the new leisure trust. We felt that it was wrong to discriminate against this part of Cornwall and close their leisure centre - especially as huge strides have been taken to cut costs and boost income there.

But the papers just published for next week's cabinet meeting show that, whilst lip service has been paid to the other scrutiny recommendations, the bit about Camelford Leisure Centre has just been reversed by the Tories.

The reason given is that there is no money in the budget for next year. This is utterly fallacious for a number of reasons:

- Although the council claimed to set a four year budget last year we didn't fix the numbers in stone. In fact the Cabinet is meeting again in the afternoon next Wednesday to consider.... next year's budget. So there would be no problem with putting the funding for Camelford back on the balance sheet;
- Staff at Camelford Leisure Centre have made huge strides to reduce costs and increase income. The net subsidy this year will be £62.5k as opposed to more than £170k last year.
- The current year's leisure budget is already shot to smithereens because of the delay in introducing the leisure trust. The reasons for the delay are the right ones, but they nonetheless make a mockery of the claim that the budget is 'fixed'.
- The move to the trust will save far more than the cost of Camelford.
- The Council seems to be able to find millions of pounds for capital works on leisure facilities in the West, but nothing to ensure that well used facilities in the East keep going.

I very much hope that the arguments that convinced the scrutiny committee last week will work on the Cabinet in seven days time. Among the eight who voted for Camelford were a number of Conservatives and Independents as well as all the Lib Dems. Let's hope that the Cabinet listens to their backbenchers.

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