Today, I received a letter asking why Hyndburn does not have such a wonderful scheme? The answer to which is ironic.
It was in fact myself who suggested free leisure right across Hyndburn paid for by the NHS/PCT but it wasn't taken seriously by the Chief Executive of Hyndburn and Ribble Valley PCT on cost grounds.
I am pasionate about people engaging in sport and recreation and it was my proposals as opposition leader on Hyndburn Council (accepted by Hyndburn's Conservatives) for free swimming, free bowls, a 50% reduction in football pitches for adults and free for juniors in Hyndburn.
I happened to be a regeneration meeting in David Welsby's office on another matter, the Managing Director of Hyndburn Council and the Chief Executive of Blackburn Graham Burgess was in attendance, Blackburn with Darwen providing Hyndburn regeneration support. Steve Tanti, Hyndburn's Director of Leisure was also there.
At the end of the discussion David and I ended up discussing why Hyndburn and Ribble Valley PCT would not take my free leisure card proposal seriously. Graham Burgess (Blackburn) was fascinated it was something his authority would be keen to look into. We had an impromptu half hour chat running through my idea, including the idea that Neighbourhood Offices were key to reaching low income groups.
Whenever the 'Beez Card' is talked about in Hyndburn today, that conversation that day is always brought up.
About 18 months later Blackburn with Darwen implemented the Beez Card with their Neighbourhood Offices as key to reaching low income groups. Whilst Hyndburn missed out sadly, it was immensely satisfying to see it the scheme brought forward and it has proved to very popular.
More recently, Miles Parkinson, Labour group leader in Hyndburn and I are pressing the GP's (CCG's) and Lancashire County Council following the changes to the NHS and abolition of PCT's to look closely again at a free leisure card for east Lancashire.
The letter writer below failed to put their name and address but I hope this not only answers the questions in the letter but gives a unique insight into the history of free leisure in Hyndburn and Blackburn and where we are now.