Please Sign the Petition to call for Staffordshire County Council to invest much needed funds for a new Kidsgrove Sports Centre:
As many residents in Kidsgrove are aware, Kidsgrove Sports Centre has recently been a hot topic for debate. The building is not fit for purpose and due to lack of investment people have left the centre in droves. But who is to blame for this?
Back in 2010 when I was first elected, my labour colleagues and I regularly complained that the sports centre was in a shambolic state. The Conservative administrations at Newcastle and Staffordshire refused to listen to our calls to action. In fact, at one meeting, I was shouted down by the Tories and told to ‘take my crocodile tears elsewhere’. There was much debate going on at the time with regards to the expense of the Jubilee 2 in Newcastle Town Centre. This facility cost the councils reserves £10.5 Million, whilst Kidsgrove Sports Centre was left to rot.
My crocodile tears were no more when all of a sudden a storm brought down the pool roof in October 2011. The County Council carried out a survey to inspect the damage and told the public the pool will re-open when the facility was made safe again. Kidsgrove Councillors had an uphill battle from then on. For months we demanded action from both Newcastle Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council. It became clear that even though there was a joint use agreement between the two councils and Clough Hall School, Staffordshire County Council owned the building and they should pay for the repairs. Slowly but surely, Kidsgrove Sports Centre went from a bustling community facility to a dead zone. My colleagues and I were furious with the then administration refusing to take action. It was clear that this could be an opportunity to put things right once and for all. We were angry that Newcastle Borough Councils reserves had been frittered away on expensive plush facilities elsewhere.
In February 2012 The Sentinel reported:
Mayor Kyle Robinson said: “It is an outrage that we spent £10.5 million on the Jubilee2 centre in Newcastle when there are 7,500 properties that pay council tax here in Kidsgrove.
“We need to find out what plans are being put in place because we deserve a Jubilee2, and not just at the top end of Newcastle. We have been side-tracked and it is not acceptable.”
The months went on and it became clear that Newcastle Borough Council had irresponsibly used their reserves to the bare bone. This meant that the County Council would have to repair the pool roof and move things forward as they owned the building. Finally in April 2012 Staffordshire County Council accepted responsibility through gritted teeth and pledged funding for a new pool roof. Councillors and residents were delighted that finally after months of pressure placed on both administrations at Newcastle and Staffordshire, a solution was in sight. The fact remains that we should never have been put in that position and both councils should have treated the people of Kidsgrove with respect. Instead, we felt like we were being treated like the second citizens of Newcastle. We pay the same, we should get the same!
The pool re-opened in November 2012. It took over a year to get the facility back into use. It could have simply been a couple of months. In the end, Staffordshire County Council forked out £200k for the roof repair. Was this money well spent and was this the ideal opportunity to put a plan together for a new sports centre?
The actual fact is that Staffordshire County Council has owned the building and has neglected it for the last 5 years. Whilst the Conservatives were in control of Newcastle Borough Council they closed Knutton Recreation Centre and the Jubilee Pool. Labour has been working hard to keep the facilities open and this includes stepping in to fix problems when the county ignored them.
Now there is talk of the centre closing once Clough Hall Technology School begins a new build project on the same site. The fact remains that only Conservative controlled Staffordshire County Council can close Kidsgrove Sports Centre as they own it, but haven’t committed any cash past 2017 to keep it going when the agreement between Newcastle Borough Council, Staffordshire County Council and Clough Hall Technology School runs out.
We now turn to the Conservative Councillor Ben Adams who is currently the Conservative Parliamentary Prospective Candidate for Stoke North and Kidsgrove. I would be happy to remind him that he sat in a meeting at Kidsgrove Town Hall in 2013 with Kidsgrove County Councillors Margaret Astle and John Taylor, the new Labour leader of Newcastle Borough Council Gareth Snell and the Chief Executive of Newcastle Borough Council John Sellgren. At this meeting it became known that Clough Hall School wanted to rebuild and this wouldn’t include the sports centre. Cllr Ben Adams who was then the Education Portfolio holder for Staffordshire County Council proclaimed it wasn’t his job to provide sports centres in Newcastle despite opposition from all those at the meeting. This was the perfect opportunity to rebuild the sports centre along with Clough Hall School. Instead the Tory administration ducked and dived to avoid paying a single penny out for this vital public service. Ben Adams has been instrumental in the destruction of public services across the County in recent years. These people simply cannot be trusted. Is Cllr Adams going to be our saviour and announce funding from the County Council as a little election sweetener?
Labours Parliamentary Prospective Candidate for Stoke North and Kidsgrove, Ruth Smeeth said: “Kidsgrove residents deserve excellent public services at every level, including leisure facilities. Since 2010 the Tory government has slashed local council budgets, but in spite of this the Labour Party in Kidsgrove, and at Newcastle Borough Council, is determined to fight for every facility and for every penny to protect our public services. This is why I am supporting Cllr Kyle Robinson’s campaign to demand a new, enhanced, leisure centre in Kidsgrove, getting our fair share from Staffordshire County Council.”
I absolutely detest the blame game of politics and we are in a very unfortunate situation. The fact remains that Newcastle Borough Council will do all it can to ensure Kidsgrove has a new sports centre. The Council continues to push for a better facility. Here are the links to a recent report outlining Newcastle’s work for a new sports centre:
To sum up we need to put pressure on Staffordshire County Council to help fund a new Sports Centre. They have the funds to ensure Kidsgrove has modern facilities that we all rely on. They own the building so it is time for action!
Please sign the petition below:
This year, Tory controlled Staffordshire County Council voted to close all youth centres with the blessing of UKIP. Every single youth club in Staffordshire and Kidsgrove will close on the 31st December. This means that all youth provision will end, despite 16000 people signing a petition against the decimation of these much needed services. The youth service also has the responsibility of co-ordinating youth forums, youth councils and the UK youth parliament scheme. I was once a UK youth parliament candidate at 16 and the experience was invaluable.
At a meeting of the Staffordshire Advisory Board, Councillors Mark Sutton and Mike Lawrence, along with Commissioner Sharon Moore, put forward plans to scrap formal youth councils in favour of an entirely online model. This is apparently another attempt to further slash costs, but modernise services. I do love the ‘modernise services’ line, its unbelievably false!
My personal belief is that this is actually a way of silencing young people out of democracy. As we all know, young people have been very vocal about the youth service shut down. Who can blame them? The service has served our communities on all fronts for a very long time and in some cases transformed young lives. What particularly worries me is that progress we have made in recent years involving young people is now going to hit a brick wall. Young people already feel apathetic about local government and politics, so what does this say to them. The County Council should think again, because a lot of the young people involved in these youth forums and councils are usually the leaders of tomorrow. An online service will be completely inadequate and I am not comfortable with the idea of all human interaction done through a computer. We will also have a national youth parliament with no representation from Staffordshire. At a time when we should be on the national stage promoting our County, we are shutting ourselves out.
Without the formal support of the County Council, communities will find it very difficult to put in place their own youth parliaments. Luckily, Kidsgrove already has its own youth parliament and the organisation makes a positive difference in the locality. These things don’t get set up over night and the co-ordinators need to be dedicated to them or they just don’t work. I remain concerned that many local villages and towns in Staffordshire simply wont have the resources to set these organisations up. Only to leave young people without a voice in a fast changing world.
I will look forward to working with young people in the near future to see what we can do to deflect the damage caused by selfish politicians.