Is it me or is everything back to front in this city? What is Leeds City Council for? To encourage consumption by those who HAVE? Or to help change the lives of those who HAVE NOT?
At the end of October last year the South Leeds Sports Centre was closed by our Council. With the summer holidays underway there’s nowhere for local residents of one of the city’s most deprived areas, especially the kids, to go.
The Council – OUR Council – says it’s open to offers from anyone interested in running the centre, but it can’t afford to fork out the £25,000 a month that’s needed.
What it CAN afford, though, is the well over a million quid a monththat’s being poured into the construction of its pet prestige project a couple of miles up the road – the Leeds Arena.
The Arena project, of course, is unstoppable – and there no doubt are people in Oakwood and Collingham who are looking forward to the privilege of paying £40 a pop to see Rihanna or £50 to see Dolly Parton.
But let’s not kid ourselves. The Arena is another Leeds monument built for those who HAVE. Not for those who, like the residents of South Leeds who have lost their sports centre, HAVE NOT.
What confuses me too is this: if the Arena is such a guaranteed earner, why isn’t it private investors that are handing out the fat cheques to BAM the builders, Arup the consultants and every other firm who’s doing very nicely out of the project? Why does what is essentially a commercial project have to be paid for with public money? With the divide between rich and poor growing in Leeds, what business is it of the Council to pander to the HAVES rather than the HAVE NOTS?