We have spoken to hundreds of people about Lydiard over the past few weeks and they are aware, like us, that what is offered or promised prior to an election doesn’t necessarily last once the vote is over.
Further to your article about Lydiard Park and the discussion at the Council Meeting last Thursday, I remain very concerned about this situation. Cllr Rennard was given a number of opportunities to confirm care and control of Lydiard House and Park would not be transferred from council ownership under the Conservative options but eventually admitted he could not. Conservatives and some Lib Dems then voted to look at options which may lead to the transfer of Lydiard House and Park from the council. The complaint from Conservatives about any use of the term "sell off" appears to simply indicate that assets will continue to be given away without receipt of any sale proceeds as proposed for our leisure centres and golf courses. Whilst they have been denying plans to sell Lydiard, pursuing the option of a trust or some such option is effectively saying that they do not want to keep it in Council ownership and management, which the Labour Group believes strongly offers the strongest long term protection. There is now a clear dividing line and choice for residents on Lydiard between Labour and the Conservatives and their Lib Dem allies.
The Conservatives accuse us of scaremongering but we do not accept this because there are valid reasons to be concerned about Lydiard. The rest of the leisure centres and golf courses are being offloaded under very detrimental terms, and we are aware the country parks have also been designated as requiring further “commercialisation”. This matter has been in the public domain for months. The Swindon Advertiser referred to the risk to Lydiard on the 4th December last year. The administration’s response then was to confirm that the country parks would be considered once the disposal of the leisure centres and golf courses had been concluded. It was only recently with an election approaching that the Conservatives denied there were plans to off load Lydiard before admitting this is indeed their strategy in their own council motion.
We have spoken to hundreds of people about Lydiard over the past few weeks and they are aware, like us, that what is offered or promised prior to an election doesn’t necessarily last once the vote is over. For example, the Children's Centres that were not really going to close or the Haydon Centre, where prior to the Haydon Wick by-election the Conservatives denied any plans to offload the leisure centre, only to subsequently reverse this and offer it to bidders.
The Conservative council motion suggests that campaigns like our petition against the offloading of Lydiard can bring the Council into disrepute. I would suggest that what brings Councils into disrepute is not councillors honestly campaigning about issues they and the electorate care about, but experiences such as Croft School, where residents were misled as to whether a temporary school would becomes a permanent school and then falsely reassured that it would not be built and/or run at full capacity unless access problems were resolved. Also the WiFi scandal, where £400,000 of Council Tax money was wasted, or traffic systems that add extra travel time for no apparent reason, or spending £15 million on an unnecessary car park whilst other car parks are put out of action. It is of course also councillors’ actions and behaviour in public meetings, councillors’ alleged use of archaic and derogatory language to describe disabled people and Standards processes that take months to resolve simple factual matters.
Councillors should be campaigning about issues that concern them and the people they represent. That is what the public expects us to do and wants us to do. Readers wishing to sign the Lydiard petition can do so at www.southswindonlabour.co.uk/
Labour Councillor for Lydiard & Freshbrook Ward