No help for energy costs ends Freedom Leisure at Burntwood Leisure Centre

I will also be asking why the council leadership did not consider funding the increased costs – it will have to anyway if the Leisure Centre is not to operate at reduced hours

Today, Thursday 26th of January, Lichfield District Council announced they were taking back Burntwood (and Friary Grange) Leisure Centres following Freedom Leisure’s inability to carry on with the increase in energy costs.

Clearly, the District Council, has not agreed to help with the increased running costs of the Leisure Centre and so are taking it back “in house” where they (council tax payers) will have to wholly fund all the running costs.

There is no help from the Government – and it will be interesting to see what the MP says about it – after all he’s already mentioned “Burntwood” this year – when he had a break from promoting the Mayor of the West Midlands.

Plenty of warnings

In fact, this should not come as a surprise as Freedom Leisure closed its first swimming pools in Milton Keynes and East Sussex last October with the Chief Executive Officer, Ivan Horsfall, saying:

“We are frankly devastated that it has come to this. Public sector leisure is one of the most exposed sectors because energy costs are such a large proportion of our overall costs particularly with swimming pools and as a not-for-profit leisure trust we operate at very low surpluses and these increases simply cannot be absorbed”

Then only just over two weeks ago, responding to the government’s announcement of the Energy Bill Discount Scheme he said:

“I am extremely disappointed and frustrated as to why public sector leisure has been omitted from the list. Public sector leisure is one of the most exposed sectors because we are a very intensive user of utilities with energy costs a very large proportion of our overall costs particularly in centres with swimming pools. We have recently seen our annual energy bill move from £8m to £20m even with the temporary cap.”

It seemed, therefore, almost inevitable that Burntwood and Friary Grange would fall victim and that has proven to be the case though the decision to take the service back in house was not.  Other options were and are available.

Clearly help from the Government is needed.  After all it has a Health and Wellbeing strategy I think and has just given millions of pounds in Levelling Up Funding in the country for other Leisure Centres – albeit not in Lichfield.

Answers are needed

Councillor Mike Wilcox, Chair of the district council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee and I as Vice Chair will be meeting with the council’s Chief Executive next week to seek reassurances on the way forward that does not impact on the service for residents in the Burntwood area.

I will also be asking why the council leadership did not consider funding the increased costs – it will have to anyway if the Leisure Centre is not to operate at reduced hours.  The decision has been made without it going to councillors and it is unclear as to the reason the Council seems keen to take it back in house when other options are available.

Lichfield District Council does have form on this

Councillor Sue Woodward was Leader of the District Council Labour Group in early 2019 when Freedom Leisure were telling LDC of the problems with the Friary Grange Leisure Centre.

She said: “The Cabinet Member responsible at the time said there was to be a Condition Survey, but LDC sat on it until after the elections that May. There were some long-standing issues with Burntwood Leisure Centre but again LDC have not reacted quickly enough”

“However, when we were at the Leisure Centre for a Police Consultation meeting on Tuesday the place was packed.  Was there something wrong with the contract?”

Well people did have their say!

Chasetown ward residents overwhemingly elected Labour’s Paul Taylor to make it a Labour victory – and a stong voice at Lichfield District.


Paul Taylor, Labour Party, 318 votes and 73.2% of the vote share.

Norma Bacon, Conservative Party, 116 votes and 26.8% of the vote share.

That’s a 15% swing to Labour. So with the full district council elections in May next year, probably the same prime minister, high inflation and further cuts in local services I wouldn’t want to be a Conservative candidate in 2023.

And welcome to Lichfield District Council, Paul!

Today, you can have your say!

In the by-election for Chasetown Ward today, voters have a clear choice: Vote for Burntwood or vote Conservative. Below is an extract from the minutes at LDC where Labour proposed using money that included extra “windfall” monies for Burntwood and the rural areas – instead of just on Lichfield City Centre’s never ending multi-milion pound project known as Friarsgate.

Police Watchdog says “We have serious concerns about two aspects of Staffordshire Police’s performance, which are putting public safety at risk”

Staffordshire Police is not carrying out effective investigations, the police inspectorate has said.  Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) also said Staffordshire Police is failing to properly identify and assess victims’ vulnerability when they first contact the police.

Ben Adams campaigning last year

HMICFRS has therefore issued two causes of concern to Staffordshire Police. This process can be accelerated when a police force’s failures raise concerns about public safety – as is the case with Staffordshire Police.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:

“We have serious concerns about two aspects of Staffordshire Police’s performance, which are putting public safety at risk.”


But which of Staffordshire’s Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners is to blame for the damning report from the Inspector of Constabulary?  Matthew Ellis, who was responsible up to May 2021 or Benedict Adams responsible since?

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:

“We have serious concerns about two aspects of Staffordshire Police’s performance, which are putting public safety at risk.

“The first concern is regarding the force’s call handling. We found that the force is failing properly to identify and assess victims’ vulnerability when they first contact the police. Repeat victims are not always identified, along with others in the household who may also be vulnerable, which means this is not taken into account when considering the response the victim should have. Calls are not always responded to in a timely way.

“The second is regarding how the force carries out investigations, including providing appropriate support for victims. In some cases, investigations were not carried out in a timely manner and relevant and proportionate lines of inquiry were not always completed. Many investigations were not properly reviewed by supervisors, and victims were sometimes not updated throughout investigations.

On the 21st of September Staffordshire’s latest Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner, Ben Adams, said in response to the police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy  (PEEL) report:

“There is still work to be done to bring some fundamental police services up to the standards people expect and deserve. I am greatly reassured that a lot has changed within the force since this inspection in January 2022.”

But he would have been informed of the findings even before the report was published at the end of March.

The Inspectorate, referring to Accelerated Causes of Concern states:

“Previously, when we have identified a cause of concern as part of a PEEL inspection, we have alerted the relevant police force(s) immediately so that remedial action can be taken. However, we have reported that cause of concern and the associated recommendations more publicly in the full force report. This can be some months after we initially uncovered the concern.”

But even if we assume the post was late and he didn’t get the report until the 29th of March, the publication date, then Cause of concern no. 1:

 “The force needs to improve how it identifies and assesses vulnerability at first point of contact.” And this needed to be done within three months – so by end of June this year.

And Cause of concern no 2:

“The force needs to make sure that it carries out effective investigations and that it gives victims the support they need.” And this needs to be done within six months – so by the end of September.

The main theme seems to be lack of resources and officers – despite higher than inflation increases every year from 2018/19 by the Police Commissioner. In fact before he become Staffordshire’s first Police and Crime Commissioner Councillor Ellis, as he then was, complained that the Police Authority could increase Council Tax without consultation (2.8% that year) but by 2017 he was saying Council Tax cap should be lifted!

Four years later he was able, and did, increase his share of the tax by 12.46% or 7 times the rate of inflation that year.


The mini budget and Staffordshire’s vulnerable residents

Rishi Sunak introduced the National Insurance increase to pay for social care – now Staffordshire County Council is worried they won’t get the money they desperately need.

The Local Government Association (LGA) estimates that £13bn is needed for the social care sector and Staffordshire County Council’s Conservative Leader, Alan White, has said: “We are also concerned about how the funding of the new Government social care reforms will be funded now the NHS health and social care levy plans have been scrapped.”

Just another 1 minute read..

Continue reading “The mini budget and Staffordshire’s vulnerable residents”

Review of blue bags recycling

The District Council’s Cabinet member responsible for recycling and waste will be presenting her report on the blue bags system this month.

This will be to Lichfield District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the 15th of September.

Just another minute’s read …

Continue reading “Review of blue bags recycling”

Burntwood tip to close for six weeks

Update! Now reopening in Mid November as delays caused by “weather”!

As predicted, but surprised by the timetable, Burntwood Tip is to close for six weeks on the 17th of September.

In 2010 when the County Council, at a second attempt, wanted to close the site permanently a petition of 12,000 signatures, campaigning by your local Labour councillors (again) and good scrutiny stopped it.

The “temporary” notice telling Burntwood residents of its “permanent” closure in 2010

At the time it was reported: “Councillors and residents fear fly-tipping will soar if the centre closes. Residents in Cannock fear traffic chaos at the town’s Poplars landfill centre if additional users join regular queues to access the site.”

Ironically, today, the Local Government Association issued a news release entitled, “Lenient guidelines leading to low fly tipping fines, councils warn”

Continue reading “Burntwood tip to close for six weeks”

Painting 10/10 pothole repair 0/10

You have to be impressed. No pothole is going to stop Staffordshire County Council repainting white lines on speed humps. ironstone-rd-june-2022-1 I reported this pothole in Ironstone Road on the 4th of June this year although it had been there for quite a while. ironstone-rd-august-2022 It was, understandably classified as “non urgent” at least understandably compared to a pavement trip hazard near the library that I and many of my colleagues had reported and which took three years to repair. Clearly the Conservative-run County Council did not want to delay the repainting of the white lines by 4 or 5 years and so, today, carried on regardless. Is it any wonder they are listed as 138 in the league table of local authorities responsible for highway maintenance with just 15% reports fixed by fillthathole compared to Stoke on Trent at no 29 with 51% fixed.  I bet they’re glad they “left” Staffordshire in 1998. 15/08/2022