A joint letter from all the political groups of Leeds City Council about the government's decision to suspend funding for the Holt Park Wellbeing Centre will arrive in Danny Alexander's mail this morning.
The Leader’s Office
Leeds City Council
Rt Hon Danny Alexander
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
1 Horse Guards Road
Dear Mr Alexander
Holt Park Wellbeing Centre, Leeds
The decision to postpone and re-examine the allocation of £30m of PFI credits to build a new wellbeing centre in Holt Park is a significant blow to Leeds on several counts.
At a time of uncertain public finance the centre would, in the long term, save taxpayers in Leeds money. It is at the heart of the drive to enable people to live independently in their own homes for longer, keeping people out of costly residential homes and replacing several old, inefficient buildings with one new, energy efficient structure. The cost of paying back the loan for the building is around £2m per year for 25 years. However, the recurring savings the project would make give Leeds City Council a better chance of meeting the cost of the increasing number of people who need social care.
The new centre would integrate health and leisure services with services for older people and people with learning disabilities, and link to the nearby Ralph Thoresby school. This would maximise the use of the building, making public sector efficiency savings. Most importantly, the new centre would provide a holistic service for some of the most vulnerable people in Leeds.
From the outset, the wellbeing centre has been designed to break the mould in the way that services are delivered. For those people who use social care services the emphasis will be on reablement and engaging people in a range of active living services, from which one of the planned outcomes will be a reduction in social isolation. Through the active involvement of local residents and people who use the existing leisure centre, the services and activities they want to see the centre deliver are being shaped, with an emphasis on the centre as a community resource focused on healthy active living. This wellbeing model has the support of the adjacent PFI secondary school and the Practice Based Commissioners for the area H3+ consortium.
Work was expected to start in the next few weeks. The 100 construction jobs this would have created for the local economy are now on hold and will never materialise if the project is cancelled. At a time of increasing unemployment, this is not what Leeds needs and will quite likely increase the number of people claiming benefits, meaning more cost for the taxpayer.
The new centre would enable the demolition of the existing out-of-date leisure centre near the site. This would create the opportunity for redevelopment either by an adjoining supermarket or another retailer, providing much needed investment in an area of Leeds which has been earmarked for regeneration over the last 10 years. There is also the possibility of accommodation for vulnerable people being built on the site.
The Holt Park Wellbeing Centre is a real cutting edge project which will bring 21st century efficient public services to Leeds. The idea of combining services under one roof will deliver multiple efficiencies for the public purse, at a time when we need to find new ways of delivering public services in a constrained financial environment. Now that the project appears to be under urgent review by Treasury we urge you to re-instate this project as soon as possible.
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon
Executive board member for adult health and social care
Councillor Andrew Carter
Leader of the Conservative Group
Councillor Ann Blackburn
Leader of the Green Group
Councillor Adam Ogilvie
Executive board member for leisure
Councillor Stewart Golton
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group
Councillor Robert Finnigan
Leader of the Morley Borough Independents Group