The Department of Transport has confirmed that long-awaited plans for improvements to Kidsgrove Railway Station are set to go ahead on schedule. Local residents have been campaigning for years to secure improvements, including a new pedestrian bridge and lift, in order to improve transport networks in the town. Construction could now begin as early as April next year. This decision also means that third party funding for a new car park and transport interchange will likely remain secure.
Ruth Smeeth MP, who has been working with the campaign and who recently met with the Transport Minister to lobby him on the issue, has welcomed the news.
Ruth said : “It’s absolutely brilliant news that these works finally have the all clear. Kidsgrove station is a vital transport hub for the community and these improvements will be a big boost. I had a productive meeting with the Transport Minister where we discussed the potential benefits of these renovations. I’m delighted that he has recognised the value that this investment will bring. This is the culmination of many years of hard work from so many local residents, Councillors and community organisations who have been advocating for these works for a long, long time.”
Councillor Kyle Robinson said: “When we launched our ‘bridge to equality’ petition in September 2013, we had everything crossed and hoped that the Government would listen. After a lot of lobbying from our MP and members of the community, we are finally moving forward. Almost £4 Million will be invested into this scheme and Kidsgrove will have a modern transport hub fit for the 21st Century.”
Kyle added: “While this is all very positive news I was disappointed to learn that the Department of Transport announced Kidsgrove will lose its direct service to London. This will mean that passengers travelling to London from Kidsgrove will need to change over at Stoke or Stafford stations. However, Kidsgrove will gain a new direct service to Birmingham New Street which opens our area up to jobs in that region. It is important that all our local representatives continue to lobby the Department for Transport for the best possible deal for the people of Kidsgrove.”
Thank you to East Midlands Trains and Network Rail for allowing us to share this video with the public.
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:
Ruth Smeeth has been selected by Stoke on Trent North Labour Party to be the Parliamentary Candidate in the 2015 General Election. Joan Walley MP announced her retirement in late 2013. The hustings and selection took place at Kidsgrove Town Hall with over 100 Labour Party members turning up for the vote. All candidates performed well during their speeches and question session. Zaeba Hanif and Katie Ghose were also on the shortlist and fought hard for the support of members across the constituency. Ruth won the ballot and is now the official candidate. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ruth on her success. I backed Ruth from the start because of her fighting spirit and her inspiring positive attitude to life. Ruth will stand up for everyone and not just the few. We believe in Ruth as much as we have believed in Joan for so many years!