Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Save Our Gloucester Park Redux

Councillor Phil Rackley has posted a lengthy comment in response to my previous post on the Save Our Gloucester Park campaign. I think that it deserves a post all of its own.

For those that don't know, Cllr. Rackley is on the Labour front bench at Basildon Countil, and he is deeply in love with the Conservative Party and all of its works.
The point you seem to miss is that the various groups opposed to your administration's policy of selling off open space to fund the Sporting Village is that people value their open space and want to keep it.
I am very well aware that people value open space, especially open space adjacent to their homes. However, it is not engaging in grown-up politics to pretend that is the only issue. Most serious decisions in politics are a balance between a number of interests. What we haven't had from the Labour Party is what you would have done instead to deal with gradual decline of the Council's ability to offer sports facilities to residents. You are aware of course that just about every sporting organisation in Basildon Borough agrees with the Conservative Administration on this matter. Their voices count too you know.
As far as Gloucester Park is concerned you have already taken a big chunk of it for the Sporting Village and rather than compensating the people, and not only those living in the vicinity, by returning the area around the swimming pool to parkland you are intent in flogging that off.
The development at the Southern end of Gloucester Park is a similar balance. In this case between the use of the land, which is all brownfield by the way, or the gradual decline of Basildon Town Centre. Houses here will help fund much-needed infrastructure in both Gloucester Park and the Town Centre, as well as adding to footfall in the Town Centre which the businesses there desperately need. The Conservative Administration view is that allowing Basildon Town Centre to continue on a downward path would be bad for the Borough as a whole, but especially for those residents in central Basildon. These are your constituents by the way. Right now the only policy from Labour appears to be that we should do nothing about this. In fact, according to your Leader there is no actual problem at all, which suggests that a proliferation of closed or charity shops is a good thing. Do you agree with this by the way?
As far as the political allegiances of those supporting the campaign is concerned, I'm not privy to information about their political allegiances but one thing is clear they certainly don't support the plundering of community assets being undertaken by your administration.
The leading light of the Gloucester Park Campaign, the chap who copies you on his emails and you have repeated been photographed in the local press standing next to, stood for Labour for Wickford in a Council election just over a month ago. Yet you are seriously claiming that you didn't know he was a member of the Labour party? Please pull the other one, it's got bells on.

On the Gloucester Park matter, how much do you think your proposed course of action would cost the Council? I would not imagine that you would be suggesting this without having some idea at least, and I think it would move the debate on if you would let us all know what your figure is?

There is a deal of hypocrisy in some of what else you say. For example, the last Labour administration gave Billericay Football Club planning permission for a stadium right where the Sporting Village is today. Arguments about loss of park space clearly did not matter when up against a privately-owned minority sporting interest. At least the current use is publicly-owned and caters to a huge amount of sports participation, as opposed to a few hundred spectators every other Saturday during the football season. For comparison, as of last Wednesday we had 25000 individuals, that is not counting repeat visits, at the Sporting Village. How may do you think would used Labour's alternative football stadium?

I am reminded in this whole thing about the new George Hurd Centre. This took up open space in order to provide a old age person's Day Centre and offices for charities helping the aged. We had a similar row backed by the Labour Party, until the facility was built when it was suddenly the best thing since sliced bread. What characterised that matter was a complete refusal on the part of Basildon Labour to even acknowledge that there was even another point of view. Then, like now, Labour essentially suggested that Conservative Councillors got out of bed one morning and then decided to do something evil before lunch.

Here we are again.


billericay cowboy said...

as to your quote of declining sports facalites havent you been in charge since 2002? so its been declining while on your watch then, and i dont know how old you are im in my mid-forties but proud i dont have a £2 millioin pound debt to my name like you, that in my view makes me more qualified than you when it comes to money matters

Steve Horgan said...

Well, Mr. anonymous poster, it takes a while to organise and fund a project like the Sporting Village. We actually had the idea in 2002, more or less when we took over. The situation we faced was of 1960s and 1980s sports facilities that had an ever increasing maintenance bill, and, worse still, declining use. People were voting with their feet because the sports centres simply were not up to standard. Now, we could have carried on I suppose, spending more and more taxpayers money on faculties that were used less and less. Eventually this would have led to the closure of Gloucester Park pool and the collapse of the School Swimming programme in Basildon. I know that some people who don't have children don't care about that, because they have told me to my face, but most parents do. Are they wrong?

Instead we decided to do something different, which was to build the finest sports centre we could, for everyone. People are again voting with their feet, and the only problem that we have with the Sporting Village is that it is packed most of the time. Most people would think this is a good thing.

As for the money, the Council's finances are quite complex. In any case servicing, and eventually paying off any residual Sporting Village debt is quite doable, and we get a world-class and heavily-used sports centre in the process.

bony tall said...

For the records stephen look at last fridays echo to the story youve called the police about someone poking fun at you!! so it aint really much surprise people wont use their real names it, and as for your comment about most parents care about the swimming lessonsyes they do but the same ones if you asked them did they want you to build on the park would say no? am i wrong.But we will never know as youve not asked via a public meeting about it so off your high moral horse horgan,the debt is not payable unless you sell off open spaces it appears thats what youve got between your ears in abundance, cause you damn well dont listen and answer questions

Steve Horgan said...

It is against the law to try to influence the result of an election without identifying yourself and submitting records on how much you spent etc. If you want to put out leaflets saying do or don't vote for a candidate, and people did, then you have to say who you are and submit the correct paperwork. So, it's not a matter of people making fun of anyone, it is about someone trying to change an election result illegally. Outside of an election period do what you want, during an election the law is very strict. Otherwise elections would just go to who could cheat the best.

Still waiting for you to answer questions!! said...

You opened the sporting village a week before the voting dont tell me that wasnt a ploy to get votes, pull the other one its got bells on!
And it was very interesting what ever the leaflet said you didnt print it along with your story, at least that way people could make up their own minds and not have a one sided story from you?
Run it again with whatever it said it full and let us the public be the judges of wheter it was election fraud.
The echo isnt excatly a balanced paper when it comes to politics after all, and again you didnt answer a question someone asked you!! your manners just dont improve stephen tut tut

Steve Horgan said...

So, if the Sporting Village construction was going too quickly I told the hundreds of contractors to slow it down, or if it was going too slowly, I got them all together and told them to pick up the pace a bit?

Ridiculous, marks the suggester out as a fool, but quite funny in a way.