Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Something For The Future – Free Leisure Facilities

If the control of South Tyneside Council is to be eventually wrestled from the hands of the Labour elite in 2 years time, then it will attract media attention not only on a regional scale, but also on a national basis. Whilst this would be an accolade for those involved, I myself would want the Borough to be a political beacon for what it actually does, not for who controls it. With a two year gap before the local elections return, there is an ideal opportunity to formulate some radical and ground breaking policies to put before the electorate. I have already mentioned the possibility of a referendum for an elected mayor. I would now also like to introduce a second approach, that of Borough wide “free at point of use” leisure facilities, to include all community associations, leisure centres, swimming pools and all associated bodies etc.

The thud you just heard was the Chief Executive of South Tyneside as she fainted, the thought of all that Temple Park revenue disappearing overnight. However, the idea has more merit than first assumed.

1 This country is on the brink of a health crisis that has it’s origins in both poor diet, but more importantly, a lack of physical activity. What better way to re-introduce swimming, squash, badminton, football etc into the family ethos, than by offering it for free?

2 If Gypsies Green Stadium is indeed demolished, then the South Shields area of the Borough will have no athletics facilities for the first time since the 1950’s. Council Leader Ian Malcolm and David Slater (Regeneration and Resources) have both in the past promised that money from any Foreshore development would be ring fenced for leisure construction. This money should be used to create an all weather running track at Temple Park, with ample left over to subsidise its free use.

3 Whilst the income stream “through the doors” would end, Temple Park can still recoup revenue from other sources:
- Upgrade of restaurant to include evening meals based on a healthy and nutritionally balanced approach.
- Grants from outside sports bodies, National Lottery, European sources etc
- Sponsorship from local businesses etc
- Retail outlets - sportswear shops on high streets make thousands of pounds selling sport associated clothing. Lease a unit to them in Temple Park
- Savings in Council expenditure. For example, South Tyneside Council has spent millions on market research, consultants etc. This work can be done “in house”, with the savings being used to subsidise leisure costs.

All of a sudden, the concept of free leisure access doesn’t seem so far fetched. As the obesity time bomb ticks onwards to destruction, society needs to radically change its approach to how it utilises it’s spare time. Free access to leisure facilities is certainly a step in the right direction.

All that is needed is the vision and the will.


Anonymous said...

Peter , I totally agree with what you have sugested. But also we need better use of the land around the Leisure Centre. For LEISURE of course.


Michael said...

Would it be free for everyone, though, or only residents of South Tyneside? You might find the place gets a little too crowded if costs are scrapped for all.
In principle, it sounds like a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Reality check Peter, great idea on paper but totally unworkable and impractical because ultimately it’s down to the 3 M’s - money, motiviation and marketing.