Article by Hsin-Yi Lo: Basildon Conservative councillors have accused the current administration of exacting political revenge on Billericay in their proposal to withdraw two investments in the town.
Under the previous Conservative administration, they allocated £150,000 in the 2016/17 budget for improvements to the Billericay swimming pool and £78,000 to remove bottle banks at South Green shops to replace them with car parking spaces.
When the Conservatives were ousted in May this year, the two projects were facing the chop in the 2017/18 budget.
In a policy and resources committee meeting two months ago, the committee passed a motion that the fate of the two projects would be decided by the regeneration and environment committee meeting.
Tory councillor Phil Turner, for Billericay West Ward, said:
“What we are dealing with is sleazy politics.”
Mr Turner believes Billericay is deliberately, and unfairly targeted because it is considered a more affluent area.
“It shouldn’t matter what part of the borough you’re from because if a town’s infrastructures need the investment they shouldn’t be ignored. This current administration poured investment into housing but have neglected infrastructure. The only reason why they’re reviewing this is because don’t want to do the investment. They see Billericay as far too affluent but this shouldn’t be the basis on how you make a decision. The point is these two investments were already set in the 2016/17 budget so they are meant to be going ahead. We have £20million in reserve so it’s not like the council is running out of money.”
Another Tory councillor, Andrew Schrader, of the Billericay East Ward, said:
“I see it as being political because the administration is targeting Billericay. It doesn’t need to be like this, because when we were in administration we pumped millions into all parts of the borough. Lots of people use the swimming pool, and South Green residents really need a new car parking spaces because it’s a traffic nightmare down there. I think it’s councillor Gavin Callaghan’s revenge on us for closing the Pitsea swimming pool. But we closed it because it was part of a bigger project to make Basildon into a sporting village.”
Basildon Ukip leader councillor Linda Allport-Hodge, also the vice-chairman of the policy and resources committee, said:
“It’s prudent for any committee to review any decision to determine if the money is still needed to be spent on current projects, or somewhere else. For example, £150,000 is allocated for the Billericay swimming pool but the committee needs to know if this amount is just a drop in the ocean, and if this amount can help with the pool’s longevity.”
Article by Hsin-Yi Lo, The Echo