If we continue to offload our assets at the current rate, all that the Council will be able to offer residents is statutory services rather than a full range of services to develop and grow the town. A Labour Council would be much more assertive with government and would challenge national politicians to invest in the town.
It has been fascinating to see the arguments and debates that have raged since the Labour Group set up our petition to safeguard the future of Lydiard Park.
The local Conservatives have been ranting and raving that there are no current plans to offload Lydiard and saying that it is a massive slur on them to say otherwise, despite their track record of offloading public space and facilities and the existence of public documents that show the Council is considering precisely this.
The current 'consultation' looking at the long-term leasing of a range of the Council's Leisure facilities shows that the Tories are happy to get public space of their books against the wishes of local residents. In the example of the Croft, the desire to give away public space even extends to including the access road in the plan despite it being the only access to a number of residents houses. What safeguards have they built into the lease agreements to protect the needs of these residents?
The issue of leasing is also problematic. Handing over the control of these building to private sector companies for 99 years is effectively giving them away, especially with no matching clause safeguarding the use of the space for leisure facilities. The new owners can apply for a change of use after 3 years. What impact does this have on those residents at the Croft? What impact will this have on the fans of the Swindon Wildcats? Are they aware that the ice-rink might be gone in a few years?
The Labour group are opposed to the 99 year lease on these facilities, just as we are opposed to an sell off at Lydiard. We are committed to keeping Lydiard, and all of the other parks such as Coate Water and Stanton Park under council control for the future generations of Swindonians.
We understand the need for Council to cut costs, in the current economic environment, but cannot accept the wholesale offload of the jewels in Swindon's crown. We see the heritage and history caught up in these sites as essential for the long-term economic benefit of the town and keeping them in Council control is the best way to protect them. I spend time at Lydiard Park, Stanton Park and Coate Water with my family and pet dog, and understand the affection that local residents have for them. The Conservatives have already started the process of development at Coate Water and failed to heed the call from residents to protect the idyllic nature of the area.
The current Conservative administration, along with our Conservative MP's have really failed the town in taking on the Coalition government to challenge the cuts that Swindon Borough Council have had to face. It is clear by comparing the scale of the cuts hitting the council with other Government departments that the attack on local Government is idealogical rather than necessary and the impact on Swindon is clear. If we continue to offload our assets at the current rate, all that the Council will be able to offer residents is statutory services rather than a full range of services to develop and grow the town. A Labour Council would be much more assertive with government and would challenge national politicians to invest in the town.
We are the only party to have properly pledged to save Lydiard and the other parks, and are the best placed to take on the Coalition to ensure that Swindon is properly funded and able to protect the heritage and green open space of the town.