Subject to agreement to confirm Capital Spend within the 2017/18 budget, Bulmershe Leisure Centre will be demolished and replaced with a new build leisure facility at an estimated cost in the region of £12m.
The Council emphasises its requirement to save £20m over the next three years so is this a right and proper way to spend the council tax payers money and potentially put at risk more deserving causes?
Thank you for your question which gives me the opportunity again to re-emphasise that no capital spend has yet been agreed for rebuilding or refurbishing Bulmershe Leisure Centre and the recommendation later in the agenda being agreed.
The £20m you refer to as the saving the Council is faced with is revenue, whilst this project, if eventually approved as part of the capital programme is Capital.
I would also like to point out our commitment to the health and wellbeing of our residents and the important part our Leisure Centres play in this. I would also add the financial revenue implications of a ‘do nothing’ approach. This includes the escalating repair works of a 70s building which it is most likely will become too great a burden to consider to be funded by a leisure provider and will fall to this Council, as revenue.
We are not only providing leisure facilities here for residents but this centre is an integral part of the provision for Bulmershe School and other local schools. Since the Council took the facility back, with a small investment by 1Life and this Council, we have added considerable income with a successful gym and more welcoming environment and adding facilities for GP referrals.
As an example, recently a middle-aged resident who had a severe stroke was told he would need round-the-clock care at home. He was determined he would remain independent and was referred to our long-term conditions gym at Bulmershe, and is now fully independent of care which the Authority would have had to provide for life. Another example is the number of older people who swim regularly at the pool; who said when we did the public consultation that if it wasn’t for the swimming they were convinced they wouldn’t be here anymore.
May I remind you that our leisure centres already return £660,000 per annum to the Council funds. There is no subsidy. With a new contract from May 2018, and with a new facility at Bulmershe, this income should increase significantly; if we do go ahead of course.
As part of the Administration that kept Grazeley a secret for 18 months and more or less only came clean when the report was leaked. Also as part of the Administration that produced a higher housing number without any consultation and you personally voted for the Leader’s recommendation to over-rule the Independent Remuneration Panel recommendations which resulted in all of them resigning and saying in the letter that the decision made by Councillors sets a dangerous precedent that is not in the interest of Wokingham’s tax payers. How can you convince the public that your planned consultation and leisure strategy will have any meaning when secrecy seems to be the genetic make-up of this Administration?
I think that is up to the public to decide.