Monday, 15 November 2010

Camelford Leisure Centre - were councillors misled?

Ten days ago, Cornwall Council's Cabinet Member for Leisure, Joan Symons, told a scrutiny committee that Camelford Leisure Centre was getting a stay of execution. She said that the centre would be funded for up to a year out of the Leader's contingency fund whilst a working group looked at a long term management and funding structure for the facility. She also announced that a smaller amount - £20,000 - would be available for the subsequent year to make sure that the centre was able to prosper.

The first meeting of that working group was held tonight and, according to one person who was there, the actual money available is nothing like that which was promised at the meeting.

According to my source:

"At a meeting tonight in Camelford, Joan Symons announced that the support
for Camelford Leisure Centre for 2011-12 from the leader of the council
would be £50,000 which is less than 45% of the budgeted shortfall of
£117,000. For the following year, the much reduced amount is £10,000.

Our three local ward members who were all at the scrutiny meeting all say
that this was not what they understood to have been said and are all under
the impression that the commitmment was made to fund the Leisure Centre
remaining open for the full financial year.

I believe that the meeting was misled by the leader of the council and the
portfolio holder."

I agree with the three local members. The clear impression given was that there would be full funding of the current level of subsidy until a workable deal was done and implemented, so long as that was within a year and that if a deal was done more quickly then the subsidy would end sooner.

This u-turn puts the chances of saving Camelford Leisure Centre at serious risk. There is little chance that a new structure can be found and implemented within six months with all the legal niceities in place.

Was Joan Symons misleading the committee when she made her announcement to the committee? I would hope and think not. But what is clear is that the scrutiny committee believed that the deal was for the full amount and approved it on that basis.

Whilst this u-turn is bad enough for Camelford Leisure Centre, how will it look to the town and parish councils and voluntary organisations which are also talking to Cornwall Council about taking on services? If this deal falls through then it puts in jeopardy the whole Big Cornwall initiative being planned by Chief Exec Kevin Lavery and Leader Alec Robertson.

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