TIME IS running out to have your say on Oldham Council’s proposals for the future of our Leisure Estate.
I’m using the Blog this week to urge residents to ensure your views are heard before the consultation period ends on November 20 – this Sunday – and also to take this opportunity to address a few myths about this process.
There have been accusations made that the consultation is “a sham” because decisions have already been made; that Oldham Council is cutting funding to sports and leisure; and that we’re rejecting a ‘viable option’ to keep Royton and Crompton pools open.
Let’s start with the consultation which – since its launch on September 23 – has gathered feedback via our website, District Partnership debates, meetings for user groups, drop-in sessions, plus 8,000 leaflets.
A “sham” consultation is one that is neither inclusive nor responsive – both charges cannot be levelled at this process.
To date more than 1,000 people have already responded which is a high rate of public response and engagement.
All of this feedback will be central to shaping the final proposals and, indeed, we’ve already changed the initial proposals in response to the public by adding Shaw to the list of potential sites for a new facility.
Secondly, it has been wrongly asserted that Oldham Council is “cutting” sports and leisure funding. This is simply not the case.
Despite our well-documented budget challenges Oldham Council is committed to NOT cutting funding in this area.
In agreeing a new contract with a future operator, we will make the running of leisure services more efficient.
This will enable us to reduce the subsidy required but all the savings made via this new contract – and by closing unfit facilities – will not be swallowed up by the Council’s corporate budget. It will instead be re-invested to deliver new fit-for-purpose facilities in Shaw or Royton, plus either a new/refurbished ‘hub’ sports centre in Oldham town centre.
Residents’ needs and leisure usage are fast-changing and we need to offer high-quality facilities that better reflect that.
We’re often criticised for not planning for the future, yet that is exactly what we are doing here. Even during an economic downturn we are seeking to invest and improve the leisure estate – not make cuts.
It’s been disappointing that much of the debate has centred on Shaw and Royton – especially as a lot of that has sidetracked into wider problems about Shaw town centre rather than addressing how we can deliver a better leisure solution in the area.
It’s also been wrongly suggested that keeping both Royton and Crompton pools open is a viable option.
Both were built more than 100 years ago, their usage is lower than other facilities and neither meets their running costs. If we kept them open – even with no improvements made – it would cost Council taxpayers more than £800,000.
These buildings don’t meet modern requirements – let alone disabled accessibility – and cannot be made fit for purpose.
How short-sighted it would be for us to continue pouring money into this black hole and waiting for that inevitable day – not far hence – when Health and Safety simply insist the venues are shut.
This debate shouldn’t just be about Royton and Shaw – it’s about the future of leisure provision across all our Borough. It’s also about ending the current inequality whereby some residents have access to fantastic facilities whilst others have relatively poor provision.
The final solutions here need to offer all residents the activities and facilities they need. By creating a more efficient operation and reinvesting our savings we can do that.
This bold programme reflects our vision to improve the health and wellbeing of all the Borough and we welcome your input.
Please take time to return one of the forms we have distributed or visit http://www.oldham.gov.uk/future_oldham_leisure before November 20.
Thanks for listening,