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posted 15 Apr 2011, 04:34 by David Gilroy   [ updated 15 Apr 2011, 04:57 ]

Regular contributor and St.Albans resident Tony Waite exposes "proto-dragons" Cllrs Donald and Rowlands.

SIR:-The letter from Cllrs Donald and Rowlands in your 31st March edition is very helpful as it discloses that the key argument for the New Pool is, in the opinion of the Lib Dem administration, avoiding: ‘increased and unreasonable financial risk’ leading to ‘a future burden for council tax payers at a time of  LA cutbacks.’ 

Previously, on 24th March, a former council Conservation Officer, S Howard, wrote:  Council’s own chief executive favoured rebuilding a new pool on the same site , thereby avoiding many of the problems we are encountering now.” 

The primary concern  of a CEO should be the financial wellbeing of an organization. It is reasonable to suppose that the CEO had concerns over the viability of the reduced sized pool and the intensification of the ‘spa’ and gym use.  If he didn’t, he should have. 

I write this, because of the research executed by the Council, which suggested that increasing the number of ‘stations’ in the gym would improve the income stream and reduce the annual deficit inevitably accruing from the need to borrow a dozen or several dozen million pounds. 

This argument is fatally flawed. Unlike other councils, which accept the need to subsidize their pools , or manage them to break even,St Albans is unique in trying out a really rather dodgy speculative venture which seeks to compete with Richard Branson, Duncan Ballantyne and all the other entrepreneurs who seek to profit from spas and luxury gyms.

The LIBDEMS claim to be a step ahead of this competition. Our venue will be new, they claim. It will be uniquely well sited, they say. As I understand it, politicians to the left and the right of them think they’re crazy. Leisure facilities are like libraries, art galleries, museums, schools and hospitals – they cost money, they don’t make money, and we build them to benefit the public and not to project ourselves into the ‘Dragons Den.’ 

The problem for the council tax payers is that this crazy experiment can’t succeed. If these proto-dragons, Cllrs Donald and Rowlands, succeed against the odds to compete successfully against the top dogs of the business world, we will lose out, because the competition doesn’t need to apply for planning permission or go through all the lengthy procedures and consultations that the Council has had to undergo; any hotel can open a gym or spa, and cream off the profit that the Council relies on to stay solvent.


If they fail, we lose and the Council tax has to be increased. It’s a straight forward gamble. Heads we lose and tails we fail to win. Thank you very much, Cllrs Donald and Rowlands.

TONY WAITE  Holywell Hill, St Albans.