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Tory lambasts ‘secret’ bid for sports hall cash

Camden Council insists Talacre is not in danger of closing

23 September, 2021 — By Richard Osley

Talacre Sports Centre and Tory leader Oliver Cooper

THE Town Hall has been accused of making secret decisions on its bids for cash grants as it emerged that it is hoping for help from the government to improve one of the borough’s favourite sports centre.

Camden wants money from the “Levelling Up Fund” to improve Talacre Sports Centre, but did not publicise the fact it was vying for the money.

Conservative councillor Oliver Cooper, the leader of the opposition at the Town Hall, said users of the centre, local organisations and elected members had lost the chance to back the bid.

“Most councils asked residents for suggestions so strengthen bids like Talacre. Camden’s ‘Council knows best’ approach just lets down residents,” he said.

“That secrecy means neither of Camden’s MPs backed a local bid, as the bid criteria says they were expected to. This lets down both the fantastic Talacre proposal and the western half of the borough, which has no bid at all. Camden inviting feedback would clearly have encouraged them to back the bids.”

The bid paperwork said Sir Keir Starmer needed more time to consider whether to support the bid for Talacre cash – a line which saw the Mail on Sunday run an article attacking him over the weekend. Mr Starmer often plays football there.

The fund is set up to have one bid per parliamentary constituency and a project in Brent is being targeted for the Hampstead and Kilburn choice.

Cllr Cooper added: “The government gave Camden a record £86m for affordable housing just three weeks ago. The government will clearly give Camden funding if the council really goes for it. That requires grabbing opportunities with both hands and working with communities, not working in the shadows.”

The New Journal asked the council if the bid meant that Talacre would be in danger of closing if it proved unsuccessful, but Camden insisted its future did not hinge on the grant.

The council has been assisting private leisure contractors GLL during the pandemic as the operators lost out due to the forced lockdown closure of facilities.

A council spokesperson said: “We are always looking for sources of funding to modernise and improve our leisure facilities – and this is an opportunity to improve the facilities at Talacre Sports Centre.

“If our bid is successful, we would convert the first floor of the centre into a large multi-purpose sports facility so we can expand the current sports and youth education programmes and introduce more activities for residents to take part in.”

“The application criteria for this funding really restricted us in terms of the breadth of projects we wanted to apply for. We were unable to apply for funding to build much needed council housing across the borough. If this is fund is really about levelling up communities, it needs to match up to our residents’ key priorities – being able to access affordable housing and opportunities for well-paid work, and key community investment that supports their family members of all ages.”

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