The Leader of Redbridge Council, Councillor Jas Athwal, responds to residents’ concerns over the future of Wanstead Youth Centre and addresses the council’s budgeting for leisure facilities in the borough
Redbridge is our home; it’s where many of us chose to live, raise our families and put down roots. I’ve lived in Redbridge for over 50 years now with my family, and as Leader of Redbridge Council, my motivation has always been to make our borough better for people to enjoy now and for generations to come. That’s why, despite punishing government cuts, a decade of austerity and the rising cost of living, our council is still investing in Redbridge. Over the coming years, we are investing £14m in brand-new community facilities for local people.
I understand there is concern about Wanstead Youth Centre, and I want to stress that no final decision has been taken; we are exploring all options to keep providing the best services while setting a balanced budget in the face of over 60% government budget cuts.
Wanstead Youth Centre, unfortunately, in its current condition is no longer suitable for long-term use due to the extensive repairs needed to make it fit for purpose. Since January, our council has undertaken an online consultation, arranged meetings with hirers and answered questions at various council committees. In addition, our councillors attended a public meeting organised at the centre and met with users. In order to allow further time to explore options for the future use of the building, the council has now scheduled the full report on Wanstead Youth Centre to come forward for decision at the Cabinet meeting in September. Business as usual will continue until that decision is taken.
As a council, it is essential we ensure taxpayers’ money provides value-for-money services and benefits to the wider community. We are one of the lowest-funded boroughs in London and have been forced to make huge savings of £236m because of government cuts over the past decade. Despite this, we always rise to the challenge of keeping vital services running and investing in what matters most to our neighbours.
Like all councils suffering from government cuts, we must be innovative, making the best use of existing facilities and spending public money wisely. Take South Woodford Library and Woodford Green Library, where we have delivered new gyms. By using existing space, we have saved money and created services that pay for themselves, right in the heart of local communities. We are investing in leisure facilities across the borough, but we have to ensure these don’t drain council resources. A great example is Valentines Park lido, which we are rebuilding 30 years after the old lido was shut. The new lido will be built sustainably and cover its own costs.
As a council, we are committed to investing in services that matter most to the people who live across our borough, but we do need to spend our limited funding wisely.
To contact Councillor Jas Athwal, email firstname.lastname@example.org