Plan for new swimming pool in Ilford South thrown out during heated budget meeting

A plan to axe area committee meetings and set aside �6million for a new swimming pool and leisure facility in the south of the borough were thrown out last night during a council budget meeting punctuated by heated exchanges.

Labour put forward a series of amendments to the 2012/13 budget of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration during the full council meeting at Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford.

As well as scrapping area committee meetings – which give seven groupings of wards budgets of more than �60,000 to spend on issues in their areas –in favour of three regional community forums, the Labour group also put forward a plan to secure the “future” of a number of cultural facilities.

Members proposed funding a business development manager and fundraising consultant on a one year fixed term contract to help Redbridge Drama Centre, Churchfields, South Woodford.

The group also proposed employing an officer to undertake an “audience development” role at the Kenneth More Theatre, Oakfield Road, Ilford for one year.

Both venues are having their grants cut by the council.

But cabinet member for children’s services Alan Weinberg mocked the idea of employing a “messiah” to help the drama centre, branding the plan as “cynical”.

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The Labour group argued both venues need help to strengthen their futures, but their plan was thrown out by a majority of 35 to 25.

Their bid to axe area committee meetings was also thrown out, as was the plan for a swimming pool and leisure centre, with the administration saying finding more school places was its priority.

As the Recorder revealed yesterday before the full council meeting, funding for education centre Glasbury House, used by schools across Redbridge, has been secured for the next three years.

The centre, on the banks of the River Wye in Hereford, was to have its annual �255,000 subsidy axed by Redbridge Council.

But he annual �255,000 subsidy will be spread over the next three financial years, with �105,000 in 2012/13, �85,000 in 2013/14 and �65,000 in 2014/15.

The council has also said “anticipated additional levels of income” from in increases in course fees from �220 to �280 per child, a review of fees for all other users and increasing client numbers will allow for the three-year funding.

All schools in Redbridge have also been asked to pay �1,000 a year towards Glasbury House, with some agreeing.

The Labour group described the announcement as an “11th hour” decision.

Members agreed the council’s budget, including freezing Redbridge’s portion of council tax for the upcoming financial year.

Council leader Cllr Keith Prince said: “We’ve had to make some very, very difficult decisions, but I believe we’ve delivered, protected and established the right priorities.”

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