No fairy godmother

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WHEN I stood for election in May I did so on three platforms, i) was to continue to nurture and protect services in my community of Holbrook East and Horsham district; ii) to help continue the legacy of making Horsham district an enviable place to live in; and iii) to do both of the preceding whilst leaving enough money in people’s pockets to enjoy living here.

That meant lending my voice and financial experience to this administration, to ensure we handled the monetary affairs of your council as sensibly, if not more so, than I would treat my own family’s finances.

Sometimes I have been chastised for being too hawkish re costs and the effect upon your (and mine) council tax – I will now let you be the judge.

Over the last week or so we have all read the heated rhetoric in our local press, the outraged demands for this administration to retain the Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre - in order to do that; to pour millions of pounds into a building that is structurally well past its sell by date and that is and will increasingly be more and more costly to maintain and operate.

So where is that money to come from, if your council are not to pursue the redevelopment of BBHLC site?

There are only three ways to find that money in the short-term, those are, to strip your council’s reserves to an extremely low level, a level where it will be near impossible to respond to a local disaster, borrow the funds (if that is possible) and incur significant interest costs that will lead to an increase in council tax or simply for your council to raise/hike council tax.

Sorry, there are no hidden pots of gold to be had, even at this time of the year there are no fairy godmothers with magic wands, those are strictly confined within theatres.

The Liberal Democrats suggest that your council raise council tax to fund such projects, but what they did not tell you was by what percentage council tax would have to be increased to let us say to raise £1.5m (and that is just the start, there are even greater costs re BBHLC yet to come over the next five years or so).

As I have said before, it is the prerogative of opposition in that they never have to make the hard, painful and sometimes unpopular decisions- but in public simply sit on the sidelines and righteously tut tut (no matter what they truly believe in private).

So, what is the effect on council tax of having to raise £1.5m?

A little known fact is that an increase of one per cent in council tax raises only around £85,000.

Therefore to raise £1.5m we would be faced with an equivalent increase of around 17 per cent, or more than three times the current level of inflation and many, many more times the rate at which each of us see our incomes rise per annum – is that such a great idea?

Yes, we are now facing the stark and harsh face of economic reality of trying to keep an aged building going even if it is beloved by those that use it.

What do I think?

I would sooner we all stepped back from rattling sabres and screaming from the rooftops and look at the bigger picture in relatively quiet reflection.

Would it not be far better to redevelop the site, to take a generous part of that legacy and invest, improve and create quality sporting facilities throughout Horsham district looking forward another few decades?

Yes, the current facility is something that we can all look back upon with pride and nostalgia – but that will not solve the issues raised by today’s harsh economic reality.

I now leave it to you to decide what is to be the future of the sporting provision in Horsham district in the decades to come.


(Con) Horsham district councillor for Holbrook East

North Street,