Werrington councillor’s anger over leisure centre closure

Long serving Werrington city councillor John Fox has spoken of his anger over the plans to temporarily close the leisure centre in his ward - but says he understands why the decision was made.

By Stephen Briggs
Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 5:00 am
Cllr  John Fox
Cllr John Fox

The Werrington Leisure Centre will close to residents on January 1 until September and the start of the new school year.

Peterborough City Council made the announcement at the same time as confirming the Key Theatre would also be closing, with both closures designed to save the cash strapped authority money.

Cllr Fox said: “We are all very disappointed and angry - all three of us (Werrington first councillors Stephen Lane and Judy Fox).

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“We were getting a new sports centre with a pool - but that has been put on hold for three years. Now they are closing the only sports facilities north of the A47. It is really disappointing.

“What is more annoying is that we cannot call the decision in, to get it looked at. We were only told about the decision a few hours before the meeting.

“I can understand both sides of the argument - we do not want the council to go into administration, and we have to balance the books. If the books cannot be balanced, these closures will be the tip of the iceberg.

“But the centre is used by so many people - there are dance classes for children - where will they go?”

The leisure facilities are forecast to make a net loss for 2021/22 of £190,000, increasing to £205,000 for 2022/23. And while the public will no longer have access to the indoor facilities, schools will be able to use them. Access to outdoor sports pitches will also remain.

But cllr Fox said the decision to close the site - even temporarily - would have a big impact on the community.

He said: “It will not just affect people who use the centre, it will affect businesses located near-by.

“People have been sending emails to us, but at the moment there is not much we can do. Yes, we are unhappy, but what more can we do?

“It has to be down to all groups on the council to come together to make a balanced budget - or we will all face the consequences.”

In normal circumstances, all decisions of the Cabinet or of an individual Cabinet Member are subject to call-in, i.e. they can be paused and referred to the relevant Scrutiny Committee if supported by three Members of any Scrutiny Committee within three working days.

However, in some circumstances -including the decisions around the Key Theatre and Werrington Leisure Centre - this ability can be waived. As set out in the Constitution at 10.24 Part 4, Section 8 ‘Scrutiny Committee Procedure Rules’:

“The call-in procedure ... will not apply where the decision is urgent or becomes urgent during the process. A decision will be urgent if any delay would seriously prejudice the Council’s or the public interest. The request for a decision to be deemed urgent will be considered by the Chair of the relevant committee and the Monitoring Officer.”

The council’s decision notice included the line: “...both the Key Theatre and Werrington Leisure Centre are making significant financial losses, which, given the council’s challenging financial position, need to be mitigated as quickly as possible.”

The council has said no redundancies will be made as a result of the leisure centre closure.