8th March 2023
We all saw this coming…
but even so the inevitable Kingston Liberal Democrats’ climb down from the proposal to build a replacement for the Kingfisher leisure centre by 2024 is a huge blow to the borough and its residents.
And so, on a quiet Wednesday morning, the council put out an article unhelpfully titled “Council committed to leisure centre” the body text of which confirms that the specification for a new centre (and with it everything else too) is to be revised.
There can be no councillor in the Kingston Lib Dems group (all of whom campaigned to deliver a leisure centre in the town centre by Autumn 2024) who has not now been shown to have either deliberately deceived residents for cynical electoral advantage or to have been so hopelessly naive and incompetent as to be unfit for public office.
Many might hope that the leader of the council could apologise today for backsliding on a major commitment of a manifesto his party stood on just 10 months ago, but that presupposes that Kingston Lib Dems have the capacity to accept responsibility for their errors. Instead, the delay has been blamed entirely on “national and international events”
When government ministers blame international factors for their obvious unforced errors we find it crass and opportunistic, when local councils do the same it’s just offensive. But Kingston Lib Dems think they can get away with this when it is clear to anyone following the Kingfisher saga that they have bungled this capital project from beginning to end.
In today’s release, Lib Dem leader Cllr Kirsch has said “It is not appropriate to be rushed into making promises or committing to timescales without being clear on the next steps.” Yet when they needed exciting and ambitious plans to publish with fanfare in their political literature ahead of the 2022 local elections, they were happy for significant council resources to be brought to bear on PR and consultancy to ensure that these plans were in place. Outside of their inward looking group there was cross party consensus that their proposals were unworkable and they would be depriving residents of a key community leisure resource for many more years than they were telling us.
Kingston Labour have been consistent and constructive on the issue of the Kingfisher, holding to the following key principles:
- Prioritising minimising the amount of time that leisure facilities are closed when judging any proposal. We urged the council to make a thorough viability assessment for repairing the roof and weigh this properly against the cost and timescales of a rebuild.
- We worked with the voluntary and heritage sector in Kingston to develop a proposal for an Athelstan Centre which would leverage heritage funding and generate income through tourism.
- Speaking out strongly against the fire sale of key council owned assets and buildings to fund the project which would be a bad deal for residents and represent a continuation of the Lib Dem and Tory asset stripping of our borough.
- Championing development for community need rather than private profit.
We will continue to be consistent on these issues and call out the council where we feel mistakes are being made. Conversely, Kingston Liberal Democrats have taken a blinkered view and at every point have sought to make their plans a self-fulfilling prophecy, from a consultation that was designed to get the answers they wanted, to a council press release that pre-judged the decision of a committee, to the hasty demolition of the centre which didn’t take into account the economic climate which they are now blaming for going back on their plans. The upshot of all of this is that residents and families will now be without a leisure centre for even longer, just as was predicted by Kingston Labour and many others.
It is hugely regrettable that the intransigence of Kingston Lib Dems and their inability to accept criticism or scrutiny of any kind has led us to this point, especially as they were warned so many times. The only conclusion that we can draw now as local residents is that Kingston Lib Dems are more interested in proposals that look good in their political literature than they are in actually delivering for Kingston.
More Failed Lib Dem election promises.