Wisbech Bowls Club

Wisbech Bowls Club

There are some problems with the current situation regarding Wisbech Bowls Club and the recent newspaper article in the Wisbech Standard highlights them.

For me, what this boils down to is what a Council-run Leisure Centre is actually for, and how the decision was taken that got us to where we are.

Now if a Council-run Leisure centre is exactly the same as any other private Leisure Centre, to deliver sports and leisure services that will make money and be popular, then its quite hard to argue against the current plan to remove the Bowls’ Hall from the club that has used it successfully.  After all, the claim is that this change will not only get an additional half-million pounds in investment, but will save the Council £140,000.  There are about 140 members of the Bowls’ Club, I am told, so the cost of “keeping” the Bowls Club is £1000 a head.  In a time of budget difficulties, that is not easy to ignore.

The problem is, I don’t think that a council Leisure Centre DOES have the same role as a private one.

After all – if you want to do exercise, spinning or whatever else the new investment is buying, there are already private institutions in the Town where these sort of activities are available.  Is it really the Council’s job to compete with private enterprise in this way?

I think that the job of a Council Leisure Centre is to fill in the gaps.  To provide exercise and activity for people whose needs are not likely to be met by the private sector.  If you are looking at running a club purely on a financial basis then you’d probably do away with the swimming club too.  Probably also the swimming pool, actually.  But we wouldn’t want to do those things because we value a local place for our kids to learn to swim and a pool for everybody to enjoy.  We see a public good which has value above and beyond the immediate commercial gains of a private institution.

Now Bowls is a sport for all ages, but I don’t think its a great secret that the demographic that is more common in the sport is older than the one which indulges in some other sports and activities.  The place offers light exercise for people who might not otherwise get enough light exercise, a place to meet friends and have fun.  Given the regular importance placed on keeping fit and combating loneliness and social isolation, the hugely successful bowls club is an example of a service whose value is far greater than the price tag might suggest.  Things like the gym are a useful way to subsidise the less profitable activities and I support them fully, but should not become the sole focus.

When the Council makes the claim that it will “ensure the club survive” that’s all well and good.  But if they are taking away their hall, what does that promise actually mean?  To the best of my knowledge there isn’t another local indoor bowl’s facility anywhere nearby, so what’s the plan?  Try and relocate them to some distant town?  Build a new Bowls Hall (and thereby make the current “savings” pointless?)  No answers are given, leaving us all a little unsure what is meant.

And how did it come to this anyway?

When the Council broadly supported investigating if a private firm could run a leisure centre more cost-effectively for us, nobody ever said “but it’ll mean closing the Bowls Club.”  Of course they didn’t, because on that basis it would never have been supported.  This stuff was all discussed around the same time as the Bowls’ Club was saved previously, so there would have been an enormous kickback against such a proposal.

Some of the other comments in the newspaper article are sad to see, also.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that you can’t trust what you read in the press and some of this story could be misleading or wrong.  But on the subject alone I was sorry to see the silly comment about how “it’s always Wisbech Wisbech Wisbech.”  This kind of attempt to pit one town against another is childish game-playing and should be avoided.  All Councillors do their best to highlight the areas they were elected to represent.  Why wouldn’t we?  Of course it is not always “Wisbech Wisbech Wisbech.”  Which is why other towns and villages have had investment, new facilities and endless discussion about the streetlights and other local issues.  To try and deflect from a damaging policy decision by making the discussion parochial is unhelpful and incorrect.  This is not something new that Wisbech seeks to secure from FDC funds, but something existing and valuable that FDC’s decision will remove from the town.  We are not all different countries, we are close Fenland neighbours and friends.  This is not a competition.  A little perspective?

I fully accept we have to save money and I fully accept that we all have a responsibility to help meet our difficult budget demands.  But if this matter had been through the political groups and through the council as a whole, and the issues of the Bowls Club discussed earlier, it may have been possible to seek a different “deal” with the private provider.  Those who have made the decision will of course say: “We investigated all avenues” or “this is the best deal we could get.”  Maybe so.  Maybe not.  But since the rest of us weren’t involved, we can’t ever know, can we?

Last I heard the deal had not been signed.  My advice would be to go back to Freedom Leisure and say: “Let’s have another look at this and see what we can do” and then involve the whole Council and all the elected Councillors in the discussion.  This is how you avoid a massive and unnecessary ding-dong with a lot of finger-pointing and wagging.  It’s not too late to have a rethink, even at the 11th hour.

Fun Times Ahead

Fun Times Ahead

As has been mentioned elsewhere, the 2019 Election Campaign seems to have begun early.

The usual old tricks from the usual suspects are all out there; character assassination, general nastiness, name-calling, false claims of wrong-doing.  Petitions “demanding” things that are already happening, so that they can then pretend they “saved the day.”  Par for the course.  Nothing new here.

But this time around there appears to be a new tactic being used.

Claims to victimhood.  Here we have people who have literally spent the last couple of years making personal remarks, attacks and telling outright lies, suddenly attempting to portray themselves as “victims.”  People claiming to have been “personally attacked” even though they have barely even been mentioned and certainly not in any “personal” way.

Why?

Well, it’s reverse psychology, of course.  Not particularly developed or considered reverse psychology, but reverse psychology nonetheless.  It’s like the schoolyard bully who is caught out and then says “no, no!  It was them who bullied me” while wiping the blood quickly from his knuckles.

Will it work?

I doubt it.  It was possible in the old days for them to get away with it.  There wasn’t several years of clear evidence stacked up to prove them liars.  But things are different now and that’s why these cowards have an ever-shrinking base of support.  As i’ve always said, the truth is out there and given enough time people do find it.

I have also noticed as increased attempt to “lure” folks into saying or doing something that can then be complained about.  So they will make some claim that somebody is “scared” of somebody else, in the hope that the person in question will respond in a way that could get them in trouble with the Conduct Committee.  It’s all about headlines and narratives and this is an attempt to get some steam under the forthcoming campaign of negativity they are planning.  It’s the same thing they do every time.  It’s not worked before, so I don’t know why they think it will work this time, but God bless them for being predictable, at least.

Just imagine if, one time, people campaigned on actual issues and policies?  Discussed opposing views on how to solve problems logically and respectfully.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  We can but dream.

Wisbech in Anglia in Bloom 2018

Wisbech in Anglia in Bloom 2018

Another great achievement for Wisbech in the Anglia in Bloom Competition.

Wisbech

A Gold Award – 11TH successive Gold Award

Category Winner of Best Large Town in Anglia

Category Winner of Best Business Improvement District (BID) in Anglia

Best Overall Entry in Anglia

Winner of the Anglia in Bloom Trophy

Brain Massingham – winner of The Mike Ames Award

Wisbech Park – Gold Award

St Peters Church Gardens – Gold Award

The General Cemetery Wisbech – Silver Gilt Award

Peckover School – Winner of the Bill Webster Young Peoples Project (under 12 years)

The General Cemetery – Nominated for the Conservation Project Award

Wisbech Park – The A `Mazing Orchard – Nominated for the Community Project Award

North Ward / Waterlees

A Gold Award

Category Winner of the Urban Communities Award

Christine Stevens – Nominee for the Mike Ames Award

Rose Lodge – Nominated for the Sheltered Housing/Care Homes Garden Award

Twin Park Community – Nominated for community Floral Display Award

Waterlees – Nominated for the Environmental Quality Award

Community Gardens – Nominated for the Biodiversity Award

Some Shouting & Swearing

Some Shouting & Swearing

Older readers of this blog will know that we’ve discussed Sue Marshall before back when we mentioned that she was a Momentum activist and she seemed to be insisting she was not.  You will remember how that one ended.

Well, Sue Marshall is back.   She turned up with a gentleman companion and a petition at a Full Council meeting of Fenland District Council this week.

I disagree with much of what Sue Marshall says, but I usually rather like her spirit and obvious political passion.  I can’t say the same about the foul-mouthed bad-tempered fellow she was with, sadly.

It all got a bit hot and bothered what with Sue’s gentleman friend (I use the term “gentleman” in the loosest possible sense) going on a sweary rant, disrupting the meeting and referring to the Councillors in a derogatory way, as well as making some vague threats.    Sue got a little shouty too.  It was all very dramatic.

Of course, it was meant to be dramatic.  The purpose probably being to generate some press coverage and to frame an issue for the elections next year.  Although Sue has since insisted she is no longer a member or activist of the Labour party (an issue which her ex-colleagues confirm.)  The NE Cambs Labour website still has a big picture of her with the words “meet your team” naming her the Chairman, so its not a surprise there was some confusion.  Apparently, the main NE Cambs Labour website is “a bit out of date.”  Or “a couple of years out of date” depending on which left-winger is talking to you.

I don’t expect it was any coincidence that the protestors were seen having lunch with a certain Truly Truly Truly Independent lady a few days prior to the meeting.   The Truly Truly Truly Independent Party group has so far refused to condemn the aggressive and rude actions of their fellow left-wingers, but again nobody is very surprised.  The suggestion that this was a collaboration does not seem immensely far-fetched to me, but what do I know?

All this “he said she said” aside, it was a pretty sad spectacle.  The motion was asking for the council to not do a thing that it was already not doing.  A joke of a motion really, which is precisely why I abstained.  How can you vote on a motion that is asking for something not to happen which is already not happening?  I did ask if they meant to use the word “ever” but that was a step too far.  God forbid their motion actually made logical sense?  A real shame, as the petition itself was not unhelpful and most of us had sympathy with its aims.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well.  There’s no additional charge being applied at this time and if the issue comes back against next year it will come to Full Council to discuss.  Seems a pretty good result to me.  With a better worded motion and a little less “f*ck this” and “f*ck you all” from the bloke in the hat we probably could have had a consensus.  But that wouldn’t have been any good for their 2019 election leaflets, now would it? #sigh

Wisbech Castle Update, 5th September 2018

Wisbech Castle Update, 5th September 2018

Having spent a few hours at the Castle today its exciting to see that it remains a hive of activity.
 
We are moving into the closing stages of a preparations and we expect the house and Cafe to be open to the public later this month, with the Vaults to follow a month or two later.
 
Today we had the alarm people in revamping and upgrading our security and checking all our Fire Alarms Precautions (all have a clean bill of health.)
 
We had workmen in quoting on some of the jobs our volunteers can’t do, as well as volunteers in painting, repairing, cleaning, gardening and setting up the Pump House for its future use as a Cafe and Tourist Information Centre.
 
There is a real feeling of anticipation as we can see the end in sight now. The number of completed jobs are stacking up behind us and the queue of future jobs is shrinking in front. More and more areas are “finished” now. Things that seemed very distant not so long ago; the Gift Shop, the Vaults Refurb, some other wishlist projects, are becoming imminent.
 
Wisbech Castle has already had its first couple of commercial bookings, despite not being “officially” open yet. We have some exciting events planned for the next three months, and we hope to have our “official opening” ceremony of the entire project in November sometime, that being the point where all the main tasks should be complete.
 
We remain dramatically under budget, although costs will rise once the place is open and being used more regularly by the public – but we feel that we have the budget well under control.
 
Once everything is “done” and we have had the house, gardens, cafe and vaults open to the public for a few months we will begin to look at “phase 2” of the Project, which will be developing its use as a venue, adding more value, enhancing the historic, heritage and educations offers, and making improvements to the site which will benefit the town for years to come.
 
Once again, huge thanks to the incredible volunteers who have done so very much, despite the occasional setback, and continue to be soul of the project. Without them, we would be nowhere. Together, we have blown all predictions out of the water and there’s lots more to come.