Political tensions hit boiling point as row breaks out over troubled leisure centre

Littleport Leisure Centre

Littleport Leisure Centre - Credit: Archant

Two councillors accused of fighting against a proposal to loan Littleport Leisure Centre £50,000 have hit back at the accusations.

Councillor Neil Morrison, a Lib Dem, and Councillor Andy Wright, an independent, were accused by the leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, Councillor James Palmer, of ‘fighting bitterly’ against plans to provide the emergency funds.

Cllr Palmer spoke in favour of a plan to provide the struggling centre with a loan for £50,000 to help keep it running while negotiations about its future take place.

But the proposal was rejected in favour of a smaller loan of £5,000, with a decision on the remaining money deferred until next month at the request of councillors.

Cllr Palmer reacted angrily to the decision and accused Cllrs Morrison and Wright, who represent Littleport, of forgetting who they represented.

But the duo were quick to fire back, refuting Cllr Palmer’s claims.

Cllr Morrison said: “Following a brief expression of support for his proposition, rather than wait for a decision, Cllr Palmer gathered his papers and left the meeting never to return.

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“Had he bothered to stay and listen to the opinions expressed by those more in tune with the situation, his distortion of events might never have seen the light of day.”

And Cllr Wright added: “Despite differences I have had an element of respect for Cllr Palmer but to use the financial difficulties of the leisure centre and misrepresent facts for party political gain is shameful.

“As an independent councillor for Littleport for the last 38 years my first concern has always been for the parish and not a political party. I will stand by my track record.”

In a statement, Littleport Leisure Centre said: “The Leisure Centre has struggled financially for the past few years and is in chronic need of repairs, maintenance, renovations and updating.

“If a cash injection of a minimum of £200,000 for emergency repairs and another £500,000 for updating showers, toilets, bar area, kitchen, flooring etcetera is not forthcoming, the leisure centre may have to close.

“Those costs would be for a very basic repair and update to the building. We have requested help from various funding organisations on many occasions, but the amount involved is too great and many will not fund maintenance led projects.”

The spokesman said that the trustees of the centre had decided that the best way forward for the facility was for the County Council to build a new sports centre adjoining the proposed new schools.

A consultation event will be held at Littleport Village Hall on Wednesday for villagers to view the proposals and submit comments.