Questions to the Leader of Oldham Council – from Cllr Howard Sykes – Oldham Council Meeting 16 July 14
Q1. Closure of Crompton Pool
I would like to ask my first question about Crompton Pool, known to local people as Shaw Baths.
After the “temporary” closure of the baths in May, there were many weeks with no public announcements or updates for local elected Members or service users.
It was only earlier this month that the bombshell was dropped when the Cabinet Member suddenly announced that the pool will not re-open.
Does the Leader not fully appreciate the depth of anger and frustration felt by local people when they finally heard that this popular facility will now remain permanently closed because this Council will not find £50,000 to carry out the necessary repairs to a boiler to re-open it?
For the sake of only £50,000, many hundreds of local swimmers, members of a local swimming club and the pupils of local schools have been denied the use of a much loved and valued facility in their hometown.
This decision, taken behind closed doors and without a scintilla of public consultation, amounts to a total betrayal by this Labour Administration of the promise made to the people of Shaw and Crompton that the baths would remain open until the new facility at Royton opens in 2016.
Would the Leader concur that this action is not conducive to community cohesion as the people of Shaw and Crompton, who have also seen their local tip closed and plans to redevelop the health centre come to naught, feel more like the ‘have nots’ in this borough?
The people of Shaw and Crompton deserve to be treated better.
Q2. The Manchester Street and Union St West Footbridges
My second question concerns the employment of a rather larger figure than £50,000 – this time to demolish a white elephant rather than preserve a much needed local facility like Shaw Baths.
The Manchester Street footbridge cost £800,000 to build in 1993/94 or about £1.5M at today’s prices.
It has always been a source of problems from the day it eventually opened – later than planned I might add.
It has been subjected to repeated vandalism, it was described as “difficult to use” especially by older people and for those pushing prams, and it was used as an informal ‘youth centre’ and a vantage point for those intent on attacking and robbing passers-by.
All these issues were predicated by the then Lib Dem Opposition who fought the proposals to build this white elephant tooth and nail, calling the structure a totally unnecessarily crystal palace in the sky!
Now there is a proposal to demolish the footbridge with the work starting in August.
Can the Leader confirm that the cost of demolition is expected to be at least £500,000?
So at today’s prices that is £2M for this folly!
Now that £2M would make a substantial contribution not just to fix Crompton Pool but to replace it?
But that is not the end of this sorry story. It gets better – on top of the £2M, at a later date will be the cost of providing some alternative crossing provision at this or near to this location.
Now if we want to spend money on bridges lets do something about the Union Street West footbridge near the Sixth Form College.
This was built in 2000 at a cost of £900,000 or £1.3M in today’s prices. This bridge has always been plagued with vandalism, broken glass panels and structural problems.
In October 2009, cabinet member Councillor Shoab Akhtar was quoted in the local media: “Hundreds of people use this bridge every day and they are growing concerned and feel vulnerable especially with longer nights approaching.
There is nothing allocated to the bridge in this year’s Capital Budget but I urge the council to find the money to get this fixed as soon as possible.”
Will the Leader tell me whether, if five years on, Cllr Akhtar will see his wish granted?
Q3. Camera Cars
The Leader will doubtless recall that at October’s Council an Administration Motion attacking proposals by Conservative Ministers in the Department of Communities and Local Government to ban the use of CCTV camera cars received cross-party support.
Following the resolution, our then Chief Executive at the request of council wrote to the department outlining our objections.
Minister Brandon Lewis in his response invited the Council to respond to a forthcoming consultation on parking. This ran from December to 14th February 2014; hardly an end date we would have picked as the proposal was so unloved.
On 21st June, the department published the findings of the consultation.
In this it is reported that local authorities, cycling groups, disability groups, schools and transport groups were almost all universally opposed to this proposal, and that even groups representing motorists had mixed feelings.
I do hope that, given the depth of feeling in this chamber, that Oldham Council also submitted its comments in opposition to the proposal.
Despite this Conservative Government Ministers want to press ahead with their proposal for a ban by amending the Deregulation Bill now before Parliament.
Can I invite the Leader and Conservative and UKIP Group Leaders to join me in writing a letter to the co-sponsors of the Deregulation Bill, Oliver Letwin MP and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, asking them to resist the inclusion of clauses aimed at introducing the ban, and to also write to our three local MPs asking them to support the Council’s position?
16 July 2014