Leisure centre funding shortfall

PUBLISHED: 16:08 28 April 2015 | UPDATED: 16:08 28 April 2015

As a current non-aligned councillor, not seeking re-election, may I highlight what I believe to be a pressing issue in our area.

The Conservative lead group has embarked on an asset-stripping exercise to fund a shortfall in leisure centre funding.

A thirty five year loan with repayments of £451,000 per year is not enough to fund the centre, so either a cash deposit or bridging loan to fill the gap is being put together.

This is in the context of projected income from the centre being £277,000 per year, an obvious and ongoing gap that will need filling, especially as the new centre would need refurbishment at least once during the operating period.

One of the assets sold is a piece of council-owned land with permission for 16 affordable housing units, all with tenants waiting, to a private developer for five executive houses.

The cash receipt to the leisure centre project was greater so the pressing need for local housing was ignored.

A political choice has been made to prioritise a luxury over what many would call a necessity.

In the Ely north extension area the amount of affordable housing has been cut from 30% to 15% as the council charge on the development of some £3million for the leisure centre and country park has made the delivery of the housing un-viable. Both political parties represented at the council have supported this move.

The Conservatives are attempting to place delivery of local needs rented housing in the hands of willing volunteers, via community land trusts.

Why should untrained and inexperienced locals, who pay their council taxes, be expected to operate a housing policy that is clearly the responsibility of the district council.

The council may build houses itself, or fund professional officers in sufficient numbers to work with communities to get local needs housing built with transparent lettings policies, some current community land trust arrangements may see a return to allocations based on who you know rather than criteria based on need.

I see housing as vitally important, I believe that the new council should re prioritise away from flagship projects towards meeting real needs. There are more than 1,000 families on the ECDC housing waiting list, never have I seen real passion in debate on this subject, more effort has been put into debating in minute detail the numbers of lanes in the new pool.

IAN ALLEN

Non aligned councillor Haddenham

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