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More Damning News About Bricket Wood Costs-Review Online 30 November 2010.

posted 30 Nov 2010, 04:18 by David Gilroy   [ updated 4 Dec 2010, 16:26 ]
Following last week's Council Meeting more is emerging about the real cost of closing Bricket Wood Leisure Centre last February.
And where HAVE all the original customers gone to now? 
DAMNING figures revealed this week show St Albans District Council has been pumping thousands of pounds into Bricket Wood sports centre despite its closure last year. The centre in Smug Oak Lane, which the council leased from HSBC, closed its doors in February this year. The cabinet agreed last year it would hand the lease back insisting it was the best decision to make financially. However it is understood negotiations between the council and HSBC to settle the deal have been ongoing ever since the closure - leaving members unable to use the service despite the authority pumping their money into its maintenance.
At last week's full council meeting Tory leader Julian Daly submitted a written question to Councillor Roger Axworthy, portfolio holder for resources and efficiencies, asking how much the council had paid out in each of the last 12 months.
Councillor Daly's probe revealed money, which he believes exceeds £800,000 in total, has been paid for security services, rents and rates.
He said: "We picked up earlier this year that the council were still in negotiations with HSBC over settling the lease so I felt it was appropriate to find out what the facts were.
"It's worrying to see this because there was a promise made to the public that Bricket Wood wouldn't close before an alternative was available including the new Westminster Lodge. "But as soon as the new leisure centre was opened in Watford it was presumed everyone could just go there instead."

"At a recent overview and scrutiny committee we found around 20 per cent actually went to Watford but what has happened to the other 80 per cent of members? "Members have just been left without a service which could be open for them to use. The council must have known there would be a charge for exiting the lease early."
In March last year the council said closing Bricket Wood was the best decision and the money it saved would be allocated to the Westminster Lodge redevelopment. However the figure revealed by Councillor Daly, which emerged from details released by Councillor Axworthy, has been played down by the council with Councillor Anthony Rowlands insisting money has still been saved by closing the popular Bricket Wood sports centre.
Councillor Axworthy said a provision of £0.540 million  was made available from one of the district council's existing leisure budgets to meet the costs during the negotiation period.Councillor Rowlands told the Review: "The council has not yet concluded its final negotiations with HSBC on the settlement of the lease for Bricket Wood sports centre so I am unable to give a final figure at this time.
"However the sum involved is a great deal less than the council would have had to pay over the remaining four years of the lease, particularly bearing in mind that it would still have to pay significant dilapidation costs anyway at the end of the lease in  2014."
He added: "The difficult decision to close Bricket Wood sports centre was reached in 2009 for a number of reasons including data provided by
Sport England National Benchmarking Service demonstrating that Bricket Wood sports centre was performing poorly in both financial and usage
terms, the opening of Watford leisure centre (Woodside), the need for the centre to close to enable the provision of funding for the
redevelopment of Westminster Lodge and significant capital investment being required over the ensuing five years just to maintain it in its
current condition."
Claims made by the council over the centre's popularity have caused fury among regular members over the last year with many contacting the
Review to tell of their experiences and why they felt it should not close.