Ex-Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell backs Redbridge Labour swimming pledge

Former Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell outside Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre in Barkingside with

Former Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell outside Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre in Barkingside with Redbridge Labour group leader Cllr Jas Athwal on her right and Ilford North Parliamentary candidate Wes Streeting behind her - Credit: Archant

Another political big gun joined Redbridge councillors on the campaign trail today as former Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell threw her weight behind a Labour swimming pledge.

The party has promised, if they win the council election on May 22, to make it free for everyone under 16 and over the age of 60 in a bid to make the borough healthier.

The pledge follows the Tory-Lib Dem council’s opening in March of a temporary pool in Wanstead - a move opposed by Labour.

Outside Fulwell Cross Leisure Centre in Barkingside, Dame Tessa said: “Having been responsible for the Olympics, it’s been fantastic to see that we’ve got this enthusiasm for swimming - we’ve got to do something about it,” later adding: “It’s perfectly fine to have a pool, but temporary pools are temporary.”

Asked whether the recent influx of political big hitters into the borough demonstrated national parties didn’t trust local politicians, Dame Tessa said: “It underlines what a great battleground Redbridge council is, how proud we are of the work that Redbridge councillors have done here, and how much we want to see a Labour victory here in Redbridge.”

The long-serving Labour MP, who unsuccessfully contested the Ilford North seat in 1979, added: “I’m here to support [Ilford North Parliamentary candidate] Wes [Streeting] and to support the council candidates in what’s going to be a very hard fought election on the 22nd.”

Last year, the waiting list for swimming lessons at Redbridge’s only permanent pool at Fulwell Cross Leisure Centre was closed with more than 1,500 names on it.

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