Caring for assets

IN RECENT years there have been a number of problems with Horsham District Council’s stewardship of the community’s assets. The Town Hall and the Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre are two cases in point.

The taxpayers and general public see the council as trustees of these assets but it is doubtful if the councillors see things in the same light. For them, the council is a business which must make a profit. Clearly no-one wants to see HDC making a loss overall but that is no reason for not allowing cross-subsidy of facilities.

Nor is it a reason for allowing assets to deteriorate through lack of maintenance. I am sure I was not the only resident to be shocked by the revelation that the leisure centre had deteriorated through lack of maintenance. What has the council been doing?

The situation is not helped by the council letting out the management of these assets to private companies whose priorities are quite different to those of residents. A company, unless it is set up ‘not for profit’, expects to make money for its shareholders. It will naturally sweat its assets if it can, particularly if its involvement is only seen as short-term.

The council, on the other hand should be looking long term, which is very difficult for elected politicians unless they are also committed local residents. A council’s duty to its taxpayers and residents is to manage properly the resources and facilities for the local community.

The best way to do this is to employ competent managers who will look after those facilities for all of us. If that means increasing the council payroll so be it. It will be better than lining the pockets of shareholders who have no real local interest.

So, get your act together, HDC. Put a proper directly-employed management team into the BBH Leisure Centre. Get the building maintained for the benefit for all of us. That is your No 1 Option (of your ‘Project Options’)!