No party politics involved around decision to delay new £25m leisure centre for Leighton Buzzard, meeting told

A sketch of the new centre.A sketch of the new centre.
A sketch of the new centre.
The Central Bedfordshire Council project has been pushed back 12 months

Party politics play no part in a decision to pause a £25m leisure centre for Leighton Buzzard, a meeting heard.

The Central Bedfordshire Council project has been pushed back 12 months “because of the financial circumstances we inherited”, according to Independent Aspley and Woburn councillor and executive member for finance John Baker.

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“We prioritise investment in school buildings and special educational needs facilities where there’s an affordable plan and the ability to move forward,” he told CBC’s executive.

“We welcome the firm lobbying from the Liberal Democrat group of councillors on delivering the leisure centre and remain committed to doing so,” he said.

“This pause allows us some time to review the leisure centre contract to ensure it delivers income in line with this council’s expectations.”

Independent Leighton Linslade West councillor Steve Owen said he was fascinated to hear the Liberal Democrat group has been lobbying councillor Baker.

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“The local cross party working doesn’t extend to them letting me know that or indeed that their pre-occupation was about a shiny new leisure centre,” he explained.

“There’s a motion from me for the adjourned council order paper with a suggestion the leisure centre spend be pushed back a little to prioritise a health hub or urgent treatment centre in the middle of Leighton Buzzard.

“I don’t dislike the idea of a shiny new leisure centre. But I prefer even more, and so do the town’s residents by a nine to one majority, the idea of the priority spend being on urgent same day treatment health facilities in the town centre.

“I don’t make any apologies because I know I have the people behind me and I’m disappointed to hear the Liberal Democrat priorities lie elsewhere.

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“The town needs this health facility more than a leisure centre because it already has that at Tiddenfoot.”

Speaking after the meeting, Liberal Democrat Leighton Linslade South councillor Chris Leaman said: “Councillor Owen is offering a false choice that could see the town end up with nothing.

“Despite the desperate need for a health hub in the town, there are still no worked up proposals from BLMK integrated care board (ICB) to bring one to Leighton Buzzard.

“We’re committed to working alongside the town’s patient participation groups to see these facilities delivered.

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“Work has progressed on a new leisure centre for Leighton Buzzard. For CBC to turn its back on this would risk nothing being delivered for the town.

“The Liberal Democrats believe that for too long our town has missed out on vital investment.”

Councillor Baker added: “We know health hubs were never funded. We need to take this forward with the ICB, however difficult that is.

“This four-year (capital) plan is reviewed every year. If we can reach some solution for health facilities in Leighton Buzzard during the next 12 months let’s consider it then.

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“Part of me wonders whether we could do something together for health and leisure at the same location to solve two problems.

“There are no party politics involved in this leisure centre. Come up with something you all agree with. That would be very helpful.”