Last year during the local elections campaign I made a pledge on behalf of the Labour Party in Southwark that we would invest the necessary £6 million in Camberwell Leisure Centre. The LibDems attempted to trump this promise by pledging that they would make every leisure centre in the borough fit for the 21st Century and brought their Leader, Menzies Campbell, to Camberwell Leisure Centre to underline their commitment.
On present evidence it looks as if they are certain to break their promise tomorrow and condemn Camberwell Leisure Centre to more years of decay and uncertainty. Out of a capital pot of £12.5 million, just £1 million may go to Camberwell, with £5 million going to Dulwich Baths. £1 million may ensure that Camberwell Leisure Centre meets some basic health and safety requirements, but it will not make the Leisure Centre fit for the 21st Century.
And the reason why Camberwell gets £1 million and uncertainty, and Dulwich gets £5 million? Pure politics. The decision may be dressed up in some argument about the respective "business cases", but at the end of the day Dulwich Baths is in LibDem East Dulwich whilst Camberwell Leisure Centre is in Labour Camberwell Green. As one prominent LibDem backbencher has put it, "There are no votes in Camberwell for us."
Camberwell Leisure Centre serves the 24,000 residents of Camberwell as well as numerous schools in the area, and the argument for better leisure facilities is unarguable. Improved leisure facilities are essential for all sections of the community - particularly the young people of Camberwell who have brought deputations to our Community Council asking for the Lesiure Centre to be brought up-to-date.
It's not too late for the Council's Tory/LibDem Executive to change its mind - they make their final decision tomorrow (13th February) at 7pm at the Town Hall. If you are interested in the future of the Leisure Centre please come along to lobby the Executive.