EDITOR – If someone can show us a sensible way to build and maintain a first-class swimming pool without a negative impact on thousands of people in West Lindsey, I will dig out the first shovel-full of earth myself.
I worked hard on this project, trying to find a way to make it happen, but in the end the deed is not possible, much to my deep regret.
But permit me to clear the air about some possible misconceptions.
Let’s understand that Government authorities are constrained by law not to mix capital and revenue monies.
In other words, unlike private businesses, we are simply not allowed to build anything, and then use more of our capital to pay for running the facility. Those costs have to come from a dwindling revenue pot.
No funds were ever “ring-fenced”, or set aside for the project. The council has capital receipts from sales of assets over the last decade.
It was thought at a time before our present national crisis that the money might be used for a pool.
But as events beyond our control have overtaken us, we now have to understand what would happen if we were to proceed.
There would be a substantial tax rise in the district, not the claimed small amount of just an average across the bands of £2.50 per household.
Multiply that by 35,000 homes in West Lindsey and we’re still far short of the mark. To make up the difference we would have to scour from the total tax, and that would mean impacting on essential statutory services like waste collection and community safety and health. This is because the actual running costs would exceed £400,000 each year, minus some income from users, but not enough to dent seriously the expenses.
Additionally, to raise this kind of cash would necessitate us going to the whole district with an expensive referendum, as required by the Government.
This is a bit of a “no-brainer” because raising taxes is a definite loser. This fruitless exercise would cost WLDC over £120,000.
In addition, we would have to surrender the £140,000 we received for not raising taxes in the first place.
So Market Rasen would be asking the entire district to make a heavy sacrifice in real and in projected terms, over and above the basic £400,000.
We must also not lose sight of the fact that even though we are a small rural council, we suffered a cut of £1.8 million, front-loaded over the first two years. We do not know what might be necessary after that.
So to maintain such an enterprise would pose a severe strain on a council that in the words of Edward Leigh, our MP, “has demonstrated superbly that a 30 per cent budget cut can be achieved without redundancies or service cutbacks”.
We understand that there are people with transport problems, and that for many and varied health reasons such a facility would be a boon.
But democracy is like that. We have to consider the overall needs of the majority, as against the wants of the few.
One letter writer said being able to access a pool would be a matter of life or death! I agree that lives could indeed be enhanced, but it has yet to be shown that anyone died from not going swimming.
We also have to ask ourselves why, after so many years of campaigning, there is still no pool. It’s really quite simple. If a local authority cannot, anywhere in Britain devise a profitable business plan, then why would a private developer embark upon a sure loss?
As I’ve said in many forums over and over again, I too am seriously disappointed. I hope the figures will help you all understand a sad but real predicament.
Leader WLDC and LCC Coun, Mkt Rasen Wolds