Erdington Councillors tonight voted to reinstate the upstairs play area at Castle Pool. But in reality, the vote is unlikely to take effect.
The play area was officially ended as part of Council cutbacks at the end of last month. The first floor of Castle Pool is to be used by Hardy Spicers Judo Club, who will be given a substantial grant to develop the area by Sport England. But the terms of the agreement have not yet been signed, and Councillors expressed their dismay that the process is taking so long. Councillor Alden insisted that a vote be taken to reinstate the play area until the agreement with the Judo Club has been signed.
There is slightly more to the issue.
Top Council Officer Sally Potter said that she could not support such a proposal, because of the financial implications. It would be reversing a decision taken for good financial reasons, she said.
There is often a power struggle between councillors and officers – councillors officially have the final word, but in practice, the full time officers usually get their way.
So the vote was carefully worded…. they would restore the play area as long as it would have “no significant negative impact on the budget.” That will not be difficult for the officers to prove.
Twenty minutes prior to the vote, Councillors had hurriedly skipped over a budget analysis that revealed Erdington as the constituency with the biggest budget deficit (£1,770,000) in Birmingham.
Councillors tonight voted with the best of intentions. But they are unlikely to get their way.
At tonight’s meeting, Councillors listened for 70 minutes to a presentation about roads. They spent just ten minutes listening to and debating about the details of the financial mess they are in.
The financial realities seem to have passed them by. But the officers have not been so easily sidetracked. In times of deep recession, budgets determine all Council decisions.