I wish to respond to the inaccuracies in the letter from Mr K Nicholls.
The Hepworth Gallery actually cost £38 million not the £30 million he quoted – a mistake of some 21.05% by the way. The council’s contribution was £19 million and the balance came from other organisations.
Mr Nicholls describes it as a folly but fails to mention that in its first two and half years it’s had more than one million visitors bringing in over £20 million to the local economy. It’s in the Lonely Planet Guide as a must-see attraction in 2014 and has been featured on CNN news in America. Some folly!
Mr Nicholls also forgets to mention the £61 million worth of cuts over the next two years being forced on the council by this government – on top of the £65 million we’ve already had to make since 2010.
That’s why we are having to cut many services and review others. At the same time we will continue to invest in the future which is why we’ve agreed to build a new pool in the South East.
Other than that no decision has been taken on the remaining leisure facilities. Looking forward we have to decide what is best for the longer term sustainability of our facilities not just on-going repair and ‘patch-up’ jobs for out-dated expensive facilities.
Do we take the strategic view of fewer, but newer leisure facilities? This is the fundamental question that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee are considering. Most sensible people would welcome this strategic and business-like approach and be prepared for an open discussion to address the serious issues we face.
And let’s be clear about Wakefield Market. The building of the Market Hall was funded by the original developers of Trinity Walk – not Wakefield Council. We have a duty to consider the offer, which has been made. Not only could it bring an economic boost and regeneration to the city but its sale would deliver a substantial capital receipt. Irrespective of the merits of the particular proposal most people would think that it’s pretty smart business to acquire an asset for free and then sell it for 100% profit.
And finally I’m responsible for a £1 billion organisation, which year after year our independent auditors say is financially well managed and delivers efficient low cost services. We do all that with the fifth lowest council tax in the country.
In future I hope Mr Nicholls won’t allow opinion to get in the way of the facts.
Coun Peter Box CBE
Leader of Wakefield Council