The Labour-run Council has woefully failed to provide leisure services in Calderdale. Halifax is now left without any leisure services – no swimming baths and no leisure centre. “It is time for members of the Labour Cabinet, or all of them, to do the right thing – take responsibility and resign.”
Under Labour, Halifax Town Centre now lacks any Council-run leisure services. On their watch, Halifax Swimming Baths was allowed to go to wrack and ruin during the pandemic and once again highlighted their poor record on facilities management. Now demolition is underway on North Bridge Leisure Centre, and work has been shelved until further notice.
Following the announcement in September that the Council’s original contractor for the project had withdrawn, Cllr Scullion, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group and Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Strategy, claimed that the project was “still on track”.
The Conservative Group challenged this ridiculous claim at the last Council meeting and asked a number of questions, including:
- Why did our contractors McLaughlin & Harvey withdraw from the project?
- Please provide us with confirmation of when construction on the new Halifax Leisure Centre is expected to begin?
- Please can you reassure the Council by confirming that we are not at any risk of losing the £12.2m of central government Levelling Up Funding?
- Please can the Cabinet advise this council on the up-to-date construction costs for the new Halifax Leisure Centre?
- Is the Cabinet considering any additional prudential borrowing to fund the scheme? And in the event that we were to lose the £12.2m Levelling-Up funding, would the Cabinet commit to funding the scheme entirely from prudential borrowing?
- Please can you confirm whether the projected operating costs of the project have been regularly updated, and if so, please provide us with the up-to-date projected operating costs of the new Halifax Leisure Centre?
- Why did the Cabinet fail to undertake adequate risk management, and financial planning for this project, when rising energy prices and construction costs were already on the horizon?
The Labour Cabinet have continuously provided vague answers to our lines of questioning, and they have been disingenuous with the Council on the situation concerning the new leisure centre – trotting out the same line that the project is “still on track” and one Labour Cabinet Member described our concerns as “bizarre”.
We now have confirmation that the project has been shelved. The warning signs have been present for over a year, and the Conservative Group has been repeatedly asking the same question “when does a project become unaffordable?”.
“Under this Labour Administration, the Halifax area has now been left completely deprived of leisure facilities – it is a disgrace.” Said Cllr Steven Leigh, Leader of the Conservative Group, adding “they have proven that they are not fit to run this Council and that they cannot balance the books. Labour will attempt to point the finger at central government for this mess, but it is the Labour Council’s reckless approach to borrowing and wasteful spending which is to blame. We knew about escalating construction costs almost a year ago and rising energy costs were on the horizon at the time of the last report on the leisure centre – to blame the government or anyone else is ludicrous, the fault lies fairly and squarely with this Labour Administration.”
“Calderdale deserves a fresh start, with a Conservative Administration which believes in responsible finances and was predicting this mess over twelve months ago. It is time for members of the Labour Cabinet, or all of them, to do the right thing – take responsibility and resign.”
The Conservative Group’s alternative plan would have been to renovate both sites, and retain the existing facilities on offer, including deep diving. Sadly, the loss of such amenities led to the departure of local sports clubs such as the Halifax Synchronised Swimming Club.
The problem facing the Council is that Labour have tied our hands. Due to the current state of both sites, renovation may no longer be on the cards and would require many millions to deliver. We do not want to lose the Central Government funding, but we are afraid that Labour has put us in such a position that there is a real risk of this happening. Unfortunately, we may need to go back to the drawing board and consider alternatives for leisure provision in Calderdale. The Labour Group should hang their heads in shame at their management of projects, assets, and leisure services.
Calderdale deserves much better than this.