Councillors in St Neots have given their unanimous support for a “splash park or pool” to be built in the town, despite a setback with the funding arrangements.
An indicative vote, held at an extraordinary meeting of St Neots Town Council last night (March 14), established that all 17 councillors present and eligible to vote would like to see a water facility in the town and a majority agreed to back a new motion to enable them to find a way forward to finance the plans.
Even with full support from councillors it is unlikely the project will go ahead this year as the council does not have the money, but could consider a loan.
Last night’s meeting was called after the council agreed to grant the St Neots Aquatic and Leisure CIO £250,000 for a splash pad at a full town council meeting on February 26, but then received advice the following day calling the decision into question. Concerns were also raised about the source of the funding, the short time scale for the project and the fact that some councillors had not seen the business plan.
At last night’s meeting, the council’s finance officer, Teodora Kostova, pointed out there was no money in the current budget to finance the splash pad and she thought it would have to be considered for the next financial year in 2020. She went on to explain that other funding arrangements, such as a loan, could also be explored.
A new motion, tabled by Councillor Gordon Thorpe, was then put before councillors. Cllr Thorpe went on to explain his decision in tabling the motion: “I brought this motion in order to preserve the integrity of this council. The council can’t sit back and lay itself open to the risk of being surcharged. As I have said before, there is no magic money fairy and if the money is not in the budget then you can’t do it.”
Chairman of the council, Councillor Barry Chapman, told the chamber he had fought for many years to see a new leisure facility in the town.
He said: “I don’t think anyone in this room doesn’t want a splash park or a pool, but some people voted [at the February 26 meeting] with their hearts rather than their heads and while both are legitimate reasons for voting, we need to ensure we get this right. We need to get this splash park or pool for the people of St Neots. This is the largest grant the council has ever been asked for and we need to look at it in more detail.”
The majority of councillors voted in favour of councillor’s Thorpe’s motion, with two members voting against it, to accept the advice that the original grant application should not go ahead, but a meeting would be held with the finance officer, chairman of the council and St Neots Aquatic and Leisure to discuss how the plan could be financed in the future.