There is a lot of talk about at the moment regarding Speke and in particularly the Austin Rawlinson Centre. I’ve said it before but I would like to say it again, and this time be as perfectly clear as possible – Speke always has been and always will be a major priority of mine in order to ensure that it continues to grow into a thriving, booming area of the City.
In regards to the Austin Rawlinson swimming centre, let me put this as simple as possible – it is not closing. It is open to the public and will always remain open to the public, even if not part of a block booking. We have absolutely no plans to close this facility. We are simply looking at ways of making it more economical to run.
At the moment it costs us £14,954,830 million to run our leisure centres and we receive an income from them of £7,303,280 million – that means that we provide a subsidy of over £7.5 million. Given the £158 million worth of cuts we have been given, this something we can’t sustain.
Speke baths is the most expensive to run – at the moment it currently costs us a subsidy of £9.50 for each visit with Everton and Steble Street baths not far behind that figure. Meanwhile we fork out £2 million a year on Wavertree Aquatic Centre – £1.2 million to pay off the debt and £800,000 to subsidise this facility.
So it’s up to us to look at different options – whether it is partnering with other organisations or schools, or improving transport options between facilities.
But I will continue to look at the best possible methods to keep Speke moving forward. It is difficult as we are having to deal with mistakes made by others in the past but believe me when I say I am looking at all possible avenues.
We have created 500 jobs with Amey with matchworks, we have invested £2m in the area, we helped support the Dobbies Garden Centre, we have the world renowned BAC Mono in the heart of the area – brought to Liverpool with mayoral investment and we have a lot more investment to announce shortly in regards to the area.
I want to make something absolutely clear. I have a lot of plans for Speke and I am very passionate about making the area thriving and successful. I have already done a lot and I am going to be doing a lot more.
There are some who still look at the closure of Parklands school and, unbelievably, see it as evidence that I want to close down facilities in Speke. They couldn’t be more wrong. The fact of the matter is parents spoke with their feet by moving their children to other schools and as a result a school built for 1,000 pupils had less than 200 registered. When Ofsted failed the school it was a death sentence. But in reality, we wanted the school to stay open. Built using PFI by the previous administration, we have to pay for the loan used to build Parklands anyway so no-one is more focussed on having an education facility on the site than me.
I am aware of the issues and complaints that people are making and to them I say this – I categorically am committed to investing in Speke and I will continue to do so. It is in my best interest and the interest of the city that Speke is a success and a success it will be.