Purley Pool shows Tories and Labour are both in shallow end

Jon BiggerCROYDON COMMENTARY: Croydon South’s anarchist candidate, JON BIGGER, pictured left, says that the decision over Purley Pool is another example to show there’s little difference between his Conservative and Labour election rivals

The debate around the closure of Purley Pool has highlighted the narrow confines in which our politics is largely conducted. Croydon Labour has said the closure is necessary because the building is in a state of serious neglect, and they blame the previous Tory-led council. Croydon’s Tories propose using some money that Labour has put aside for a rainy day, but that would keep the pool open only for a year.

And then Croydon South’s two main parliamentary hopefuls ride into town seemingly full of support for the campaign to keep the pool open. Labour’s Emily Benn committed to the campaign at the recent debate she had with Conservative rival Chris Philp at the Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, and Philp himself has been tweeting about it for a while.

The problem with the stance of both the candidates is that neither is behind saving the pool in any meaningful sense.

Benn had the perfect opportunity last month at the council’s scrutiny session to put her cards on the table. Instead, Councillor Benn chose first to mention how she used to use the pool as a child and mention how important such facilities are, but then she asked a series of questions related to how Labour would go about closing it rather than how it could be kept open. No wonder Council Leader Tony Newman referred to her intervention as including “very good questions”. It was a very tame intervention.

Croydon South Tory candidate Chris Philp was quick to support a campaign to keep Purley Pool open, which Croydon Tories had planned to close

Croydon South Tory candidate Chris Philp (centre of picture, blue tie) was quick to support a campaign to keep Purley Pool open, which Croydon Tories had planned to close

Meanwhile Philp has got behind the plan to keep the pool open, at least for a while. Reports suggest that it would cost around £1 million in the next financial year to keep the pool operating, and Philp is reported to have said, “For such a small amount of money they are closing down a valued community facility.”

True, it is a small amount of money in the great scheme of things. But that is the price for just the next financial year. In effect, it would save the pool from closure in April just in time for the election in May. Philp often tweets, without irony, that the Tories are doing a great job on the economy, using the hashtag #LongTermEconomicPlan. We need a long-term economic plan for Purley Pool. If Philp believes it should stay open, it would be useful if he specifies his plan for funding it beyond 2016.

One area that Benn touched upon in her questions to the council leadership was the idea of alternative funding from the private sector or perhaps third sector groups. And in these types of questions we see the narrowness of our public debate.

Neither of the major parties is willing to highlight the need for major investment in the facility. Neither is willing to challenge the major cuts that councils have received due to central government’s austerity policies. The result is the message that nothing can be done within the public sector. We must use the resources we have and when they run out we just lose the facility unless private finance or charity help comes our way. They will talk of tough choices and offer few meaningful solutions.

This is unacceptable.

Our representatives in Westminster and at a local level have the ability to defend us and the services we want. Or else, what is the point of voting for them? The idea that public facilities are unaffordable is ridiculous. Britain is one of the most affluent countries in the world, but as inequality rises and the rich take more than their fair share we see local services run down and nobody in authority is willing to help us.

The people who suffer most from this are the marginalised in society. Between 2008 and until recently, I lived a 15-minute walk from the pool and I know how valued it is to the community, with local residents, schools and clubs. I know how valuable a facility it is to the people in our community who cannot afford the fees in private health clubs and gyms.

Surely the council has the nerve to defend us against budget cuts and demand better on our behalf? Surely, our parliamentary candidates can join a true campaign to keep the pool open and help it stay open? It’s not just up to the politicians either. We can all play a part, although I feel we might need to take more radical action than simply signing a petition.

We need a concerted effort to save Purley Pool, but it needs to be genuine. It needs to look to the long-term and it needs to ensure that it is not hijacked by those with simple electoral interests. The election will be over in May and the pool could be gone. If the campaign fails then Councillor Newman’s plans of offering what he described as “exciting retail” on the site will come to fruition. We will see the demise of a valued service in favour of yet another soulless shopping centre.

No matter how “exciting” the retail opportunities offered, they should not be seen as a substitute to truly revitalising Purley High Street. I’m not expecting a mass of new locally run small shops to crop up.

As Class War’s candidate for the constituency, I wholeheartedly want to save Purley Pool. I believe we can and I will work with the local community to do so, by any means necessary.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2015 General Election, Chris Philp MP, Croydon Council, Croydon South, Emily Benn, Jon Bigger, Leisure services, Purley, Purley Pool, Tony Newman and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Purley Pool shows Tories and Labour are both in shallow end

  1. staywellfireyourdoctor says:

    We used the pool over September-November of last year and the gym always seems busy. The customer service at the desk can be slow and slightly rude though. All forms available look like very unprofessionally prepared (poorly laid out) photocopies. The pool is always is use, at least when we went for our lessons and I am looking forward to having some one-on-one tuition there this year. All this to say that there is indeed a community need for the pool and I hope it stays open! Though an improvement in the customer service would be nice. I also heard a mother complain that she prefers the coaching at Redhill and that raises another question, could the coaching be better? Between my existing bus route to my present home and the fact that we have opted to remain “car-less” for a few years, this pool is the only one I can access conveniently at present.

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