His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester officially opened the Basildon Sporting Village yesterday. The Sporting Village had already had its public opening, but this set the seal on the final completion of this most successful project.
To recap: Basildon Borough Council, working with excellent public and private sector partners, has built and opened the best public sports facility in Essex. In so doing it has saved the schools swimming programme for Basildon Borough and guaranteed that the key sports will be available for everyone by fixing the prices at inflation increases only. It has provided a base for sport that runs from casual usage all the way up to elite standard, which has been confirmed by the Japanese Swimming team signing up to train and base there in the run up to London 2012. The project cost £38.8m, not bad for a Council with an annual budget under £30m, and finished on time and on budget. Everyone involved is to be congratulated.
The Sporting village represents something more than just an excellent sports facility; it is an expression of the differing political philosophies operating within the Borough. Labour historically has been against excellence, and especially against the idea that anything should exist in Basildon that might be made use of by people from outside the Borough. In fact, they are pretty twitchy about anything that might be made use of by people in Basildon Borough but who live north of the A127. They have had an insular approach to Basildon New Town and policies to provide average facilities there while simultaneously complaining to all and sundry about problems with deprivation there in the hope of scooping up public funds. All in all it has been a strategy for division within our community and to present the worst possible image for Basildon outside of our community. When they ran the Council all it achieved was a sort of managed decline for Basildon New Town and a desire for the rest of the Borough to split away.
The Conservative philosophy is to provide the best for Basildon Borough, and if that attracts people from elsewhere then so much the better. We want infrastructure that supports a confident, vibrant and growing community that attracts investment and jobs from accross the private and public sectors. That gives us the capability to actually fix problems such as poorly-designed 70s housing estates and to support those parts of of our community that need it, all without presenting Basildon as some sort of basket case. We explicitly reject the idea that all our community can do is decline.
Of course, the voters have had many opportunities to decide which of the two visions they prefer. Conservatives have been running Basildon Borough Council since 2002.