After a day canvassing in St Paul’s, off to the Guildhall for the Winchester Town Forum (which, somewhat confusingly, covers the city wards of the Winchester City Council district). The big issue of the day proves to be the funding arrangements for the new all-weather sports facilities being developed by the University and the City Council in partnership.
The plan for the new sports facilities was originally put in place when we ran the council. The Conservatives have taken it over, but have introduced some rather strange funding arrangements. Despite recognising that it is going to be a district facility, they’ve decided the city should pick up the tab for all of the district’s contribution to the project, even though this means setting up an unusual pseudo-loan arrangement and emptying the city’s Open Space Fund sports budget for the foreseeable future to ‘pay it back’. At the same time, the rural budget, which could help cover the cost, remains untouched.
Our councillors, and thus the majority of the ‘town’ forum, backed the sports facility plans but voted against the unusual and unnecessary funding arrangement – however, the Conservative cabinet (which only has members from outside the city) have promised to overrule them, presumably to make sure that the rural areas they represent can still pay nothing.
No real surprise there then. Despite everything we may hear about how the Conservatives are changing, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence for it on the ground in Winchester.