Dear Editor, I believe the proposed plans for building a £60m swimming pool in the centre of Birmingham are severely flawed and should be dropped immediately.
There is a general lack of interest around the country in swimming as a pastime, and many councils are wisely closing costly, unprofitable and decaying swimming pools almost on a weekly basis, yet blinkered Birmingham City Council wants to jump in at the deep end and spend vast amounts of ratepayers’ money on a white elephant. Make no mistake, if this venture goes ahead, Birmingham people will see their council tax repayments vastly increased to fund it. Private sector operators won’t be so anxious to throw their own money at a swimming pool which appeals to only a few patrons. Swimming pools are just not seen as lucrative investments,
The running costs, estimated at £400,000 per annum, have been plucked out of the sky! The annual wage bill alone, for management, office staff, maintenance workers, caterers, cashiers, swimming teachers, lifeguards, health & safety officers, security staff etc., would come to considerably much more than this figure.
The council has completely forgotten that the real operating costs, which would include rent and rates on a massive building in the most expensive part of the city, would be astronomical. The heating costs of the pool and building alone would be prohibitive, not to mention gas, electric, telephone, public liability insurance, on-going maintenance and many other costs which need to be accounted for.
Operating costs of well over £1.5m per annum would be a more realistic figure. Remember, the council is claiming that the operating costs may have to be met through cuts in the leisure services budget, together with the closure of other pools in the city. Other leisure services facilities will have to be looked at closely and trimmed, if not closed down altogether. Many sacrifices will have to be made in order to get this pool up and running.
Citizens cannot understand the obsession in wanting an expensive 50-metre pool when the council has seen fit to close many pools around the city in recent years. The vast majority of Birmingham’s ratepayers are not keen enough to go to their local pool in large enough numbers, anyway, to make their local pools financially viable.
A 50-metre pool in the city would be the biggest waste of money ever seen, and the city’s ratepayers, who would never set foot inside the building, would be paying for this forever and a day.
Aid deserving Jaguar Land Rover needs to stop wasting money on ‘consultancy’
Dear Editor, I believe that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is more deserving of government aid than the fat cat banks who still aren’t passing on taxpayers’ loans to industry (Post, January 6).
However, the biggest issue for Dr Gordon Brown is whether JLR will stop wasting millions at its Whitley R&D centre. This former Rootes plant ought to be the jewel in the crown for JLR, yet how many times over the past 20 years has the management spent three or four times the money it actually needed on upgrades or new models?
How many of its staff are writing their MBAs and PhDs in company time instead of solving business problems?
Worst of all is how many millions has JLR wasted on “consultancy” from Warwick University?
The managements of most of the major manufacturing firms who used to be based in the West Midlands gave generous consultancy and training contracts to Warwick. Yet most of them have either relocated or gone bust.
If JLR wants government money, it has to show very quickly that it will bring its R&D budget under control. A start would be to move all management training back to Coventry Tech, which is vastly more cost effective. JLR’s managers would also meet a lot of real engineers there, which wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
Locally issued bonds are an idea worth more exploration
Dear Editor, The measures being considered by the shadow communities secretary follow a long line of such pronouncements and actions from Westminster and Whitehall.They all lacked any sense of coherence and vision which defines and locates the local in a national and sub national context.
The latest proposals acknowledge the need for a more innovative approach to local government finance.The suggestion a return to issuing municipal bonds could offer a way forward deserves scrutiny.The practise came to an end in the 80s as part of Westminster and Whitehall action to control local government.
The issuing of bonds does not need to be linked to their purchase solely by City of London and foreign financial institutions. As James Watkins from the West Midlands Business Council points out the issuing of bonds by public authorities to finance public works is commonplace in other parts of the world where there are a large pproportion of local purchasers.
Localise West Midlands (see www.localisewestmidlands.org) has for years been promoting the idea of bonds purchased locally to raise finance for major investments in West Midlands infrastructure including housing, transport and energy. This local approach would help ensure bond funding was recycled in the local and regional economies and build a much greater sense of local public ownership.
What such an approach requires is far greater freedom for democratically accountable local and regional authorities to determine priorities and raise finance to carry out the necessary works.
Labour and Conservative support for established and new large city and county authorities runs counter to the need for smaller town, city and regional elected authorities which are the norm in Europe, the USA, Japan and elsewhere and connect electorates to government.
A more localised approach to government and economic development is needed
Tipton Road, Woodsetton, Dudley.