Conservative councillors have forced the Council’s Liberal Democrat administration to review and rewrite a report on the future of St Crispin’s Leisure Centre in Wokingham.
At an Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 14th November, Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, Leader of the Conservative Group, proposed a rethink based on a failure to adequately explore arrangements for how the centre would be used by the community.
Conservative and Labour councillors joined together to support Cllr Jorgensen’s proposal, also citing a failure to consider the consultation’s outcome that residents did not support the administration’s proposal to hand the leisure centre over to St Crispin’s school.
Respondents to the consultation had made clear that travelling to the Carnival Pool leisure centre was not an option for many, and pointed out that St Crispin’s had the only squash courts in Wokingham.
During the meeting, councillors expressed confusion as to why the authority needed to give the leisure centre over to the school, and shared concerns that residents’ use of facilities would not be maintained.
Conservative councillors were highly critical of the lack of detail and clarity in the Liberal Democrat report, as well as the inclusion of options and information that were not in the public consultation.
Liberal Democrat councillors gave unclear answers as to whether the community would be able to continue using sports facilities and why it was necessary for the school to be given a 125 year lease on the leisure centre rather than simply being given use during school hours.
The Liberal Democrat-controlled Executive will now be required to rewrite their report and return to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 28th November to present the paper again.
This action by the committee follows criticism of a consultation process during the Summer, when the Executive Member for Finance, Cllr Imogen Shepherd Du Bey, was unable to say how many people were using the leisure centre or why St Crispin’s is faced with closure.
Cllr Pauline Jorgensen said: “I’m pleased that Conservative and Labour councillors joined together to support my proposal that the Liberal Democrat Executive be made to go away and re-think this report. The paper was appalling. It’s embarrassing that the administration is looking to remove an asset from community use based on a poorly written report with so much confusion and a lack of information and so little protection for the taxpayer. They couldn’t even give us financial information when pressed.
“What the Liberal Democrats are proposing isn’t viable, and involves an option of simply giving the school a leisure centre when alternatives haven’t been properly thought through. I hope the administration takes this opportunity to have a serious re-think about this proposal.”