People’s Option deserved to win

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In ignoring the People’s Option for Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre the council has yet again evidenced how out of touch it is with the needs and wishes of local residents, and how in bed it is with big business.

First our council provided developers with the gold-plated opportunity to build 2,000 new homes in Broadbridge Heath, completely disregarding its own commitment along the way to ensure at least 40 per cent of the homes would be affordable for local residents.

Now it plans to knock down Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre and sell off the land, by all accounts to a supermarket which is already well represented within Horsham, with no clear plan to provide replacement facilities for all of the user groups.

The People’s Option for Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre, which Horsham Labour Party supports and many of our members voted for, polled massively more than all of the other options, despite it not making its way onto the ballot paper.

Those who have complete confidence in David Cameron’s Big Society might then be excused from expecting our Conservative council to welcome the outcome of the vote and agree to deliver nothing less than the well-thought through and fully costed proposal which would have seen athletics remain at the heart of our district leisure facilities.

But, localism has been replaced by cronyism in Horsham, as not a single councillor at June 27’s crucial meeting , where the fate of our much loved leisure centre was decided, voted against the proposal put forward by the Tories.

Tory and the Lib Dem opposition (sic) alike all voted to; halve the size of the gym, put paid to having a nationally recognised bowls club, and, most damningly of all, scrap both the indoor and outdoor running tracks.

The Tories and Lib Dems are already engaging in mutual back slapping and are keen to present a far rosier picture, but rest assured they have voted to reduce our leisure facilities in Horsham and for the council to pocket many millions of pounds along the way.

I would expect nothing less of our Conservative council , as their aim is clear, they wish to redistribute wealth from those with least to those who already have most.

This is why they are obsessed with selling off community assets as they know that the wealthy can afford to use expensive private facilities.

Reducing council services that are paid for by us all best advantages the rich, as they see their tax burden reducing while the rest of us suffer from a massive reduction in services.

What I fail to understand is why our local Lib Dems, a party that purports to be progressive, embraces the ‘I’m all right Jack’ culture of the Tories with such enthusiasm.

Democracy must have a creditable opposition for it to work in the best interest of the electorate and time and again our Lib Dem councillors here in Horsham are found wanting in this respect.

If the Lib Dems want to vote with the Tories on all the big issues then they should have the decency to resign the Lib Dem whip and join the Conservative Party.

I am sure many of the electorate who voted Liberal as an alternative to the Tory administration would be appalled at how infrequently the Lib Dems provide an alternative position within the council chamber.

If we had a creditable opposition we might never have got into the situation whereby an appropriate maintenance programme for the leisure centre was overlooked and the argument to retain and upgrade the current facilities or indeed develop the People’s Option for a facility that we could all have been proud of, could have been made more forcibly.

Instead these arguments were all made outside of the council chamber.

While the campaign did deliver some concessions from the Tories , we nevertheless will end up with worse not better leisure facilities here in Horsham.


Chair, Horsham Labour Party, Clarence Road, Horsham