Monday, 9 August 2010

Ministers have 'no interest' in the closure of Shadsworth Leisure Centre

Blackburn with Darwen Council's decision to close Shadsworth Leisure Centre just over Hyndburn's border, despite it being the most used leisure centre in Blackburn and in the 13th poorest ward in Lancashire, lacks any logical or moral judgement whatsoever.

The connection between recreation and healthy lifestyle is obvious. Survey and survey repeats what is common sense.

With that view I cannot find a reason for Shadsworth's closure other than folly or stupidity. I do not accept the financial argument. Blackburn's Conservatives are clearly putting health down a priority list, well below for example saving a few copper's on the Council Tax.
I do not accept the financial argument because these cuts are being driven by Whitehall and the Coalition's cuts in local government funding to Blackburn Council. Taking Labour's £73bn deficit reduction and adding another £40bn (£113bn), none of that from increased taxation but all of it exclusively from reductions in public spending.

A choice. They are as much a choice in Westminister as they on King William Street.

Pledging to act in a "big-hearted way" before the general election, David Cameron told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "What I can tell you is any cabinet minister, if I win the election, who comes to me and says: 'Here are my plans' and they involve frontline reductions, they'll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again. After 13 years of Labour, there is a lot of wasteful spending, a lot of money that doesn't reach the frontline."

Since when has Shadsworth Leisure centre with 330,000 visits been 'not frontline' and 'wasteful'?

Mass resident appeals for a review of funding to save the centre have been rejected out of hand by Blackburn's Conservatives leaving a clear view that they just do not care about any other options. Put succinctly, this is a choice agenda to cut public services and as Bob Neil, Local Government Minister stated, starting with the poorest first.

Shutting recreational amenities would seem perverse following The Minister for Health's White Paper proposing the biggest shake of the NHS since 1947 to improve health care. Perverse it isn't though as the White Paper also proposes to close Primary Care Trusts and focus on secondary care. To believe that health improvements begin in a hospital or on an operating theatre table is ridiculous.

And it is that ridiculousness that I cannot understand. Free swimming has ended and that will be the first of many health care prevention activities that no longer feature as either as part of the NHS's improving health care policies or an overall view of preventative care that includes lifestyle's and recreation.

The closure of Shadsworth Sports Centre, by a Conservative Council under a quasi Conservative government highlights this complete disconnect between the NHS and preventative health care. Between The Minister for Health and his counterpart the Minister for Communities and Local Government. Between central and local government. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing and the left hand doesn't care so long as the right hand is squeezing the poor.

After speaking with Jack Straw on the matter I tabled a parliamentary question to see just how much thought central government had given to the actions of Blackburn with Darwen Council and if they understood the importance of these linkages to a community like Shadsworth.
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, if he will hold discussions with Blackburn Council to seek to keep Shadsworth Leisure Centre open. (10548)
One should not be surprised by the reply;
This is a matter for the local Authority. There is no provision for the department to intervene in this case.
East Lancashire's health is amongst the poorest in Britain. That has to paid for. Shadsworth Leisure centre I believe received 330,000 visits last year. The case is overwhelming for at the very least, a revie .

The spirit of scrooge and the ghost of Thatcher are both well and truly alive in the corridors of Parliament and the committee rooms of Blackburn Council.