That's an excellent question being posed by Coalville residents on the street and Streetlife online.
Reshaping the landscape
Before becoming elected, joining up services in the public sector – especially in mental health – was a big part of my professional life. Reshaping existing services is always a battle and I know just how hard it was. What could get in the way of such a sensible idea becoming a tangible reality?
Who are ‘The Council’?
The trouble is, there isn't one Council. North West Leicestershire District Council own the Leisure Centre. Leicestershire County Council own the derelict site that was once a popular Discovery Museum. The man or woman in the street sometimes struggles to decide which Council does what and quite rightly so. Surely these institutions should work together for the common good?
Sadly, it does not work like that. Even though the District Council Leader, Cllr Richard Blunt, occupies the same human form as County Heritage Lead, also Cllr Richard Blunt, the plans for Snibston and the plans for Coalville's Leisure Centre have been developed in mental silos without taking any account of the benefit of a joint approach.
Why move the Hermitage Leisure Centre anyway?
One driver is the ‘Choose Coalville’ project. Welcome improvements to shop fronts and the Emporium aim to boost local business. The ruling Tory group believe that locating a thoroughly modern Leisure Centre on the Bridge Road car park will bring more visitors into our town.
The people of Whitwick are opposed to the move. The plans will leave them with only the outdoor sports fields and a small pavilion for people to change. The remaining land will be sold for housing to part-fund the relocated building.
Another driver is a wish to outsource Leisure services. About 200 Council staff will be transferred to a private Trust who will be engaged to run all our Leisure Centres at a profit.
Making plans for Snibston
House-building is also expected to fund the restoration of the derelict Snibston Museum site. The County Council hope to raise £1M from selling the museum footprint, events arena and former coach park. This will help fund improvements to the park, including a BMX track, adult adventure play and exercise equipment. A car-park and small café is going to raise, according to the plans, the £160,000 a year needed to make this work.
Given that District Council adult play equipment is already available for free in the Urban Forest Park (behind the tip) and exercise equipment in Coalville Park, I am not sure why people would choose to pay to use County equipment instead?
Working together for Coalville
None of the decisions about Snibston or the Leisure Centre are ours to make. Coalville does not have a Town Council. It is frustrating to stand on the sidelines watching two institutions studiously ignoring each other and pursuing their plans for our town as if the other doesn't exist.
I am not usually a fan of big structural changes in our institutions. They rarely deliver the millions in promised savings and are massively disruptive. But I can see the point. Perhaps it is time to merge the District and County functions into one Unitary Council serving North West Leicestershire? Or perhaps it is time Coalville had a Town Council with the power to manage both Snibston and Leisure services?
Maybe then we would see some joined up thinking?