Here is my message to the Swimming Pool protest on Saturday 28 September 2013.
You will be aware that I was actively involved in the campaign five years ago and I spoke on Saturday 25 October 2008 at the end of demonstration outside Ilford Town Hall.
Ilford had a swimming pool since 1931, and I swam there as a child. But due to the prevarication and incompetence of the leadership of Redbridge Council, Ilford Baths in the High Road were shut without warning on safety grounds and we were left with just one public pool at Fullwell Cross to serve the whole Borough population of 280,000. Council leaders knew for years since the 1990’s that a new Ilford pool was needed. Yet because of their incompetence we have had no pool for over five years .
A bid made in 2001 to the Department of Culture Media and Sport for support for a mixed leisure complex at Winston Way led in 2003 to the Labour Government offering £10.5 million Private Finance Initiative credits. The Council spent hundreds of thousands on the first stage procurement process. But in 2005 after an internal power struggle and leadership changes the Conservative council changed its mind, halted the plan and decided to go instead for an “Olympic pool ” on the Cricklefields site. As a result they lost the PFI grant because it could not be allocated to a purpose other than that for which the original award was intended.
They then failed to get funding for their fantasy. And since then although the Council has on paper remained committed to a flagship leisure development it has failed to provide funding. This contrasts with neighbouring Barking and Dagenham and Newham which both have new modern facilities. Our children and people with disabilities and the elderly face a journey of miles to an already overcrowded Fullwell Cross and more than 100,000 people in my constituency no longer have a pool.
Ilford wants and needs a pool and it is time for Redbridge Council to look to imaginative new ways to provide it.