Ludlow’s leisure centre protected in strategy issued ahead of election

Despite the imminent election, which usually leads to a halt on policy statements,[1] Shropshire Council yesterday issued a draft leisure strategy. There is good news for Ludlow and for Bishop’s Castle, whose leisure centres will continue to be supported by Shropshire Council, along with those in Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Bridgnorth and Market Drayton.

Plans to close leisure centres or offload them onto communities have been controversial from the outset. In the south of the county, residents have campaigned to save leisure facilities in Church Stretton and Bishop’s Castle.

In Ludlow, we learnt some time ago that Shropshire Council would continue to support the South Shropshire Leisure Centre, despite initial moves by the council to transfer it to Ludlow Town Council. It never made sense for the town council to run the leisure centre. That would have placed the financial burden on Ludlow ratepayers alone, despite the facility serving people living across a very wide area. (The same incidentally applies to the library, which is not currently on the transfer list).

The strategy published yesterday recommends leisure hubs at six locations:

  • Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Ludlow, Bridgnorth, Market Drayton, Bishop’s Castle.

These will be supplemented by four community leisure centres:

  • Church Stretton, Whitchurch, Cleobury Mortimer, Ellesmere.

Leisure is a non-statutory activity. The council can shut all the leisure centres if it wishes. But this will conflict with its responsibilities for public health.[2] The council recognises this in a press statement on the leisure strategy:

“Shropshire will be a county where healthier, active lifestyles are encouraged, supported and facilitated for everyone.”

Under the strategy 89% of Shropshire residents will be able to access leisure centres within one of these ten locations within a 20-minute drive time.

From a Ludlow perspective, the main issue with this strategy is the council’s dire financial position. Reserves and one off funding pots are being used to keep services going under the strain of government cuts. Changes in funding over the next few years may lead to a reappraisal of what the council can support.

As always, we need to remain vigilant to ensure that Ludlow retains the services its population needs and pay for.

Notes

[1]. The council is currently in the pre-election period, also known as purdah. This definition is from Wikipedia: “The time period prevents central and local government from making announcements about any new or controversial government initiatives (such as modernisation initiatives or administrative and legislative changes) which could be seen to be advantageous to any candidates or parties in the forthcoming election.” I think the leisure strategy is both new and controversial. The Local Government Association guide “Understanding Purdah” advises council officers: “Unless it is a statutory duty, don’t start any new consultations or publish report findings from consultation exercises, which could be politically sensitive.” That guidance has not been followed. It is a question for lawyers whether the council has broken the law. I am just a layman. But it seems to me that Shropshire Council is outside the spirit of the law.

[2]. Local authorities interpret these responsibilities in different ways. Newcastle council, for example, has allocated £1m a year of anti-obesity funds from its public health budget for the city’s parks.

11 thoughts on “Ludlow’s leisure centre protected in strategy issued ahead of election

  1. So how can Ludlow Town Council justify a staggering 24% hike in charges.They have plenty of reserves and didn’t spend all they collected last year.Roll on the elections.

  2. It would be a good idea to get it down in writing and be sworn on over the Bible. Beware of after the elections.

  3. Or is this to pay for an assistant Town Clerk ? WHY? Or is it to pay for the previous who took the Town Council TO THE CLEANERS? Enough is enough!

  4. Barry, stop it. This is not the place. You’ve had more than one conversation, with more than one councillor, regarding this issue.
    The 50p per week rise will go some way to counter act the many years that there has been no increase in tax paid to SC, and will pay for those services that they are discarding.
    LTC are financially planning for the future.
    Please direct your anger in the right direction…
    Or stand for election.

    1. I disagree Heygate Colbourne. This place is a good as any other to raise questions about the financial implications of transfer of services. The fact that Barry has spoken to councillors does not preclude him, or anyone else, rasing concerns on this forum or elsewhere.

      So far, Ludlow Town Council has not agreed to any services being transferred from Shropshire Council. That means that it is highly unlikely there will be any financial implications during 2017/18. This comes after a significant underspend in 2016/17. It is right to ask why the council is raising taxes now. If the council eventually agrees to transfer of services, it will need to raise more funds, but there has not been a clear case for raising funds now.

      The town council does temendously good work but it needs a more coherent and credible financial strategy.

  5. ‘Coherent and credible financial strategy’… like Shropshire Council?”
    Barry’s questions have already been answered. ( unlike mine).
    We both know that LTCs precept has been raised to ensure the council operates affectively, and, because of SCs ‘coherent and credible financial strategy’ LTC will have no choice but to take on services to bail them out.
    How would you respond, if unnecessary vitriol was directed at you?
    This is not the forum, election year or no.

  6. What a strange world we live in ! Asking where are money is to be spent is seen as vitriol.I keep asking the question because no one will give me an answer.

  7. But you have, more than once, it’s also been answered in this forum, by me.
    The Guildhall, or any councillor, can provide you with the financial details I.e budget and projected income and expenditure.

  8. Hi – a question. Is Ludlow council allowed to carry over the underspend from last year to the coming year? I was wondering whether any of this money might be used to make a start at least on fixing the walls in the Churchyard. It’s been 4 years now, I believe.

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