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Council Again Criticised in Pool Row Update - Herts Advertiser 23rd September 2010.

posted 23 Sep 2010, 06:03 by David Gilroy
Our thanks to Vanessa Gregory for this report below on behalf of residents meeting with ASA recently. Please also see already on this website the ASA's position statement . The Council has far more than "two pennyworth " of explaining yet to do -in fact £26.776 million of it!
 

SIR-I refer to my recent letter in which I shared with fellow readers the revelation of the ASA’s true position on swimming provision in St Albans, as expressed by their CEO in recent e-mail correspondence to me and others.  I would like to share subsequent information, which I feel should also be more widely known.  I feel it is about time we had facts, not councillors and officers spin, selective quotes and memories.  

 

The ASA kindly offered a meeting with residents to expound further on their stance, provide copies of correspondence to the council going back to 2006 and answer our questions.  This I hosted on Friday 10th September in my home.  I invited Pool Too Small, The St Albans Civic Society and Councillor Julian Daly in his capacity as chairman of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee.  The facts are not too technical; if I can pick them up in an afternoon meeting then I suggest anyone can. 

 Subsequent to our meeting, the ASA issued a full position statement which is unsurprisingly similar to the CEO’s recent statements.   This can be read on the Pool Too Small website.  It was sent to me and to others, including the council’s chief executive on the afternoon of Wednesday 15th September ahead of the full council meeting that evening. 

 From our meeting and the correspondence provided, it became clear to me, (others present will have drawn their own conclusions); that the ASA had sent red warning signals to the council in 2006, that the council’s consultants appeared to be “overstating” the costs of incorporating a 50m community pool within the sports complex.  Their head of facilities in 2006 quoted actual figures of other developments to demonstrate his point. 

 

They spelt out to the council the difference between the proposed 50m no-frills ‘training tank’ in Hatfield and the recommended 50m ‘community pool’ in St Albans with moveable floors and bulkheads. 

 It became abundantly clear to me why such a facility would offer excellent value for money due to its increased flexibility of use; allowing simultaneous activities to maximise usage and income.   

The myth that 50m pools are ‘white elephants’ and don’t generate income was truly laid to rest.  What is true is that some pools of this size have failed whilst others thrive.  The key appears to be good design and management! 

 

The ASA also recommends libraries, health centres or theatres are developed in consort with leisure provisions to maximise income generation.  How sad therefore our council has quite literally turned its back with the proposed new centre on The Abbey Theatre, and as far as I can see severely limited their options for expansion should they so wish.  The only sop to this highly valued performance venue I can see is the offer of pre-theatre meals in the café.

 

I feel Councillor Donald and his cabinet has a lot more explaining to do, as to why so many ‘material facts’, such as overstating the costs of a 50m pool, have been withheld from us for so long.  Why sound advice was ignored, in favour of consultants, before he sprays our hard earned cash around like confetti.    

 

Cllr Donald said at the full council meeting that we residents have had our “two penny worth”, he was elected and decisions had been made.  May I remind the leader of the council who elects you?  Councils don’t have money except taxpayers’ money.   For a £27m scheme, to give residents “two penny worth” of say is surely inequitable.

 

VANESSA GREGORY Tennyson Road , St.Albans.

 

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