Letter: Intelligent decisions for Horsham

COUNCILLOR Jim Rae, in his letter to the County Times of January 5, accuses Liberal Democrats of ‘soon’ arguing for the use of council reserves to retain Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre and the Town Hall for community use. There is no basis for these accusations.

Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.

We have been arguing for a proper review before any decision is taken, rather than a decision based upon the flawed consultant’s report. This is now planned to happen following the council’s U-turn.

In order to help secure this policy review Liberal Democrats had several meetings at BBHLC prior to December’s council meeting, understanding the situation and advising the users on how to constructively argue their case.

We believe the facilities offered by the leisure centre to be of significant value to the community and something to be proud of.

We need to ensure that the sport, leisure and community opportunities currently provided continue to be available. If the site is developed, raising millions from the sale of land, it would not be unreasonable for some of that money to be used to provide a new facility nearby. However no decision can be made until the present review is completed and the facts are understood.

Horsham’s Town Hall.

Mr Rae was clearly not listening at the council meeting on December 21. Councillor David Sheldon and I put forward the case that the money required to make the Town Hall a first class venue, including providing a ground floor toilet for the disabled and improved disability access to both ground and first floor, in total probably in the region of £700,000, could we believe be provided by grants and donations.

We just argued that, as intended by the Localism Act, the community be given time to make a bid. This was rejected.

Constructively working together. Most councillors wish to focus on doing what they can to ensure that the council acts in the best interests of the public. We normally work together constructively regardless of party loyalties in the council’s various committees.

Mr Rae’s desire to invent inter-party differences where they do not exist is unwelcome and will only serve to bring the council into further disrepute. At present, party politics only surfaces at council meetings.

It was, for example, regrettable that the policy additions that I proposed at council to provide reassurance to the public concerning council intentions relating to the leisure centre were voted against by Mr Rae’s colleagues.

This was particularly ridiculous since senior Conservatives confirmed within the meeting their agreement to what I sought to confirm. Similarly it was hugely disappointing that his colleagues failed to support allowing time for the production of a bid to enable community use of the Town Hall and instead voted to offer it for sale.

Value for money.

The council must ensure that it spends money wisely. That does not mean that anything that has a cost associated with it should be closed or cut.

The fact that the leisure centre allegedly faces significant maintenance costs, as do all leisure centres, is not alone a reason for closure. More careful consideration is required.

Similarly the current economic situation does not mean that the council cannot use council tax payers’ money to support facilities that benefit the taxpaying public.

The bottom line is that intelligent decisions need to be made based upon proper consideration of the facts. It is not just about money but about value for money for the tax payer.

DAVID HOLMES

(Horsham Park) leader of the Liberal Democrats on Horsham District Council

North Street, Horsham