Wednesday, 10 February 2010

where there is a will, there is a way

Sparkhill baths has been shut for 18 months. We haven’t even seen the detailed plans to replace it, let alone any sign of builders getting ready to start work. The months and years go by and we are still waiting.

But the Liberal Democrat responsible for sorting out this mess has other things on his mind. Councillor Martin Mullaney is threatening to make a formal complaint against me to the Standards Board.

What is his problem? He doesn’t like the article I wrote on this blog on 3 February. In that article I said he had admitted, under questioning in the council chamber, that funds had not been allocated to rebuild Sparkhill pool, despite Lib Dem promises. After all, this is what council officers had reported to the Hall Green constituency meeting on 19 January.

Councillor Mullaney now says this is untrue and has demanded that I correct my article before 5 pm today or I will face the wrath of the Standards Board. Instead of trying to silence me he should focus on the facts. 

The minutes of the council meeting report Councillor Mullaney as saying this: “…from an officer point of view, nothing has been allocated as such to Sparkhill, but there is the political will to allocate sufficient money to rebuild Sparkhill Pool.” 

So, as “nothing has been allocated as such” to Sparkhill pool, I will not be changing my article. But I am happy to repeat that Councillor Mullaney said there is the “political will” to come up with the money for Sparkhill.

What he has to acknowledge is that this is of little comfort to residents who had been led to believe that detailed planning would have been completed by July this year and the pool itself ready in 2011. Instead, in the last public meeting he proposed a PFI option linked to the Building Schools for the Future programme (which itself has uncertainties due to recession related cuts), and involves a change of site. If accepted there would be no pool in Sparkhill till at least 2013 - meaning five years of closure, and one not as easily accessible by public transport, and no doubt at much greater cost to the public purse ultimately!

Residents simply want to be able to swim again, having already been deprived for two years. To be told that there are so many question marks around site and finance, and being given contradictory messages about what has been 'allocated' has been deeply frustrating. To add insult to injury, Councillor Mullaney could not even commit to a timeline for consultation, never mind re-building the pool!

Instead of sending threatening messages to me, and confusing messages to residents, perhaps he should focus on translating 'political will' into meaningful action.