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Conservative South Kesteven District Councillors vote against inquiry into failings of Deepings Leisure Centre




An independent investigation into how the Deepings Leisure Centre became unusable won't go ahead, after Conservative councillors voted against plans.

The Deepings Leisure Centre closed for health and safety reasons in July and councillors voted at a meeting last month to keep it closed while they spend £100,000 on a full structural report, before considering multi-million pound repairs.

However, the meeting raised questions among councillors as to how the council-run leisure centre was able to deteriorate so far to be deemed as a serious risk to health and safety.

Deepings Leisure Centre. Photo: David Pearson
Deepings Leisure Centre. Photo: David Pearson

At a full South Kesteven District Council meeting on Thursday last week (September 30), Independent councillor for the Deepings, Phil Dilks, called on members to support his motion for an inquiry.

He set out that the independent investigation would inspect all aspects of what led to the current situation, including why proper maintenance was not carried out year-on-year, why the Deepings Leisure Centre lease was never signed and why county council funding of £124,000 a year to support Deeping Leisure Centre was withdrawn in 2014.

"We have been let down and frankly lied to," said coun Dilks.

Coun Phil Dilks
Coun Phil Dilks

He had made a similar proposal at the extraordinary Deepings Leisure Centre meeting but withdrew it after allegedly having a talk in the comfort break with coun Kelham Cooke, leader of the council, who said he would be in favour of the motion if it was less politically worded. Coun Dilks changed the wording before bringing it to full council.

"I remember Deepings Swimming Pool having to close many years ago because of lack of maintenance, we were promised that it would improve years ago," said coun Dilks.

"The biggest porky of all is the broken election promises.

"How many councillors were elected on that very same election promise that are trying to air brush it?"

Coun Kelham Cooke
Coun Kelham Cooke

He added: "[The people of the Deepings] deserve answers, they deserve to know what went wrong.

"Please vote for common sense and support my motion so we learn lessons and get things better in the future."

Coun Paul Wood (Ind - Viking) told councillors that while the mistake has already been made, the most important thing is to learn from it so it does not happen again.

Coun Charmaine Morgan
Coun Charmaine Morgan

It was added by Coun Charmaine Morgan (Lab - Grantham St Vincent's) that had the council put money in the first place to maintain it, the centre wouldn't be in the state it is.

Deputy leader Coun Barry Dobson (Con - Dole Wood), who signed off the initial document to close the leisure centre, was the first of the Conservatives to reply to the plans.

"This is all on public record so it would not be appropriate to initiate an inquiry. The matter has been discussed at length and process is in place for our scrutiny committees to consider a full overview,” he said, while announcing that he could not support the motion.

Coun Barry Dobson
Coun Barry Dobson

At a previous meeting coun Cooke admitted his predecessors have not taken the difficult decisions in terms of the Deepings Leisure Centre and that 'the can has truly been kicked down the road for a very long time'.

Despite this he did not support the motion.

"We have limited resources and face financial pressures as do many councils across the country," said coun Cooke.

Deepings Leisure Centre protest. Photo: David Pearson
Deepings Leisure Centre protest. Photo: David Pearson

"Most district councils have one leisure centre; we have four and we are committed to them all.”

An Independent Bourne councillor, Philip Knowles, previously expressed concerns that Bourne Leisure Centre could face the same fate as it is seen to be deteriorating.

Coun Dilks' motion also called for answers on why no site for the long-promised replacement Deepings Leisure Centre has been agreed and to establish whether funding for a new-build Deepings Leisure Centre, promised by former leader, coun Matthew Lee, was ever available.

Coun Ashley Baxter
Coun Ashley Baxter

A key member of the opposition to the Deepings Leisure Centre closure, Independent councillor Ashley Baxter, urged councillors to support the motion as he 'couldn't believe' the Tories' response.

He said: "I think the most important thing to establish whether the funding for the new build was ever available or whether it was complete pie in the sky election promise."

However, with the Conservatives, who make up the majority voting against the independent inquiry, the motion failed.



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