Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

Worthing Liberal Democrats Weekly Newsletter – 13th to 19th November 2011

Articles for the past week:
Leader:  Fire sale         
News this past week:
1. Free Early Years Education For Two-Year Olds In West Sussex – Liberal Democrats
2. Worthing New Pool Funding – End Of Tories Dither And Delay, Hopefully?
3. Pool – Now What’s Happening? Take Three

  •    Lib Dems will keep Worthing’s services local      
  •     Lib Dems will get on with bringing our town into the 21st century – no more dither and delay
  •     Lib Dems will ensure ‘We are all in it together’ – no more waste and high pay                                                                  
  •     Lib Dems are the only opposition in Worthing – Labour can’t win here                                                                                                        
  •     Lib Dems support 20 mph in Worthing’s residential roads
 Leader:  Fire sale


Last year Greeks were outraged when Frank Schaefler, a German politician advised them, in order to ease their debt problems to “sell their islands … and the Acropolis too.”   That would definitely have been a fire sale. On a smaller scale in Worthing residents are more than a little upset as the Tory administration over the past few months have gradually rolled-out its catalogue of publicly owned assets for sale to finance the new pool. Does this amount to a fire sale?

Worthing’s equivalent of the islands was the publicly owned Aquarena site on the seafront which was sold this week to a private developer and the community asset lost to future generations. The Aquarena site was the key element in the funding report prepared in March this year accepted by the Tory cabinet – in spite of the cautionary note from Worthing Borough Council’s own fnance officer.  In that report the Aquarena site was valued at £7.8 million.  Reflecting the concerns of the finance officer the report stated: “There is a significant risk in progressing at this time, as the key Aquarena site has yet to be marketed” and “It is your finance officer’s view that the main contract should not be signed until such time as the disposal of the Aquarena site is further progressed.” 
Eight months later we finally got the sign off from the Worthing Cabinet (now part of the Joint Strategic Committee with Adur) on Tuesday after the go ahead at the same meeting to sell the Aquarena site – did it make the apparently “conservative” estimate of £7.8 million?   No – at least that was admitted in an earlier Worthing Borough Council press release.  Who was the private buyer and what was the price?  Residents still have to wait to find out as the Tories continue to invoke the Local Government Act claiming commercial sensitivity.
The official minutes of Tuesday’s meeting offer few clues simply stating:
Decision (Aquarena Site)

The Joint Strategic Committee

i. Approved the sale of the Aquarena site to the Committee’s preferred bidder

ii. Delegated authority to the Executive Head of Technical Services, in consultation with the Worthing Cabinet Member for Resources, to negotiate detailed heads of terms and to note that these terms might differ, but not substantially, from what has already been proposed.

iii. Agreed that upon the completion of the new facility and the closure of the old, the site of the existing Aquarena be appropriated to the Planning Committee for redevelopment purposes as detailed in 5.2 of the report

Decision  (Pool Funding)

The Joint Strategic Committee

i. Approved the revised funding strategy for the Worthing new pools project

ii. Approved, in principle, the sale of part of the Worthing Civic Centre Car Park and land owned by the Borough Council in the High Street for development

iii. Agreed that the contract for the pool can be signed in light of the revised funding strategy

The March funding report also had for sale the Grafton site and a piece of land in Fulbeck Avenue – now we have part of the Civic Centre Car Park and a couple of properties in the High Street.  Worthing’s Tory Cabinet really is beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel and it looks increasingly like a fire sale. We are surprised that they didn’t throw in their Nectar Points and Air Miles to help bridge the funding gap.  Perhaps they did – residents wouldn’t know as the meeting to sell the residents’ assets was held again behind closed doors.
How does selling off part of the Civic Car Park affect the cheap and just negotiated parking offered there by Worthing Town Centre Initiative?    We don’t know.
How will remaining community assets be maintained including the much needed refurbishment of the Leisure Centre at Durrington?    We don’t know.
Will this new funding report based on a fire sale work any better than the March one?    We have our doubts.  
And one last question:  Why is it Worthing’s council tax payers know the buyer of the publicly owned asset also sold this week Northern Rock and the price paid, along with the details of the other bidders, whereas we are still sworn to secrecy on the Aquarena site?  We asked the Leader of the Council Paul Yallop – his answer: the Local Government Act.
The Local Government Act appears useful cover for a fire sale.
Worthing Liberal Democrats 
Monday 14th November – Free early education will be extended to 140,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds, and parents will be able to access the free entitlement more flexibly, under plans published by the Government last week. In West Sussex around 1,300 two-year olds are expected to benefit from the proposals. Liberal Democrat Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather, announced a consultation last Friday on how this commitment will be implemented. The plans include proposals to help parents and children alike by making the free entitlement of 15 hours per week of early education more flexible, so it can be taken between 7am and 7pm across two days instead of the current three days.  
Commenting, Dr Colin Wilsdon, West Sussex Children and Young People’s Spokesman said: “Helping 1,300 two-year-old children from the poorest backgrounds in West Sussex will benefit them for years to come. High quality early education is the key to making a difference early on in a child’s life and help make Britain a fairer and more equal society. Helping people to get out of poverty and therefore improving social mobility is a Liberal Democrat priority in Government. Early years education is crucial to achieve this. Targeting early education at those who can benefit most is important to achieve this goal. It will be vital to disadvantaged children’s healthy and will mean they’re not falling behind before they have even started primary school.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg said: “I want us to give every child the best possible start – so free education for toddlers from the most disadvantaged homes will now be a right and not a privilege. Crucially the extra care will be flexible and easy to access. Parents across the country are bending over backwards to balance work and home. The Coalition wants to help in whatever way we can.”  (Bob Smytherman – Press Release)
Wednesday 16th November – Worthing Liberal Democrats last night (Tuesday) welcomed the fact that the Tories have at long last made decisions on the future of the Aquarena site sale and a new funding plan for the new pool.  On whether the decisions are right or wrong Lib Dem Leader Alan Rice who was present at the meeting of the Joint Strategic Committee (JSC) couldn’t possibly comment.  Once again the decisions were taken behind closed doors with public and press banned and Alan effectively sworn to secrecy. The previous funding plan agreed in April this year was viewed by the Liberal Democrats with deep scepticism and the fact that it has been substituted by a new one speaks volumes. It remains to be seen if this one is any less fragile.  What is going to go on the old Aquarena site and whether it will meet the wishes of residents also remains to be seen. 
Alan commented after the meeting: “At least we have seen an end to the dither and delay or have we?  If this new funding plan is anything like as fragile as the last I am sure we will be back to the table again? Will the new development on the Aquarena site meet the vision of the ‘Masterplan’ for an active beach zone?  How high will the buildings be? Will local residents be pleased? All questions to which we will have to wait release of the documents for answers. Then I could possibly comment.”  (Bob Smytherman – Press Release) 

Thursday 16th November – Worthing Liberal Democrats were perplexed this morning over the absence of a press release from Worthing Borough Council on the sale of the Aquarena site and the go ahead to sign the pool construction contract.  As the adjourned meeting of the Joint Stategic Committee finally made the decisions on Tuesday night Worthing Lib Dems were expecting the Tories to be shouting from the roof tops the good news on their number one priority. But the silence is deafening and contrasts with the well publicised national news today of the sale of Northern Rock to Virgin Money.  The sale of Northern Rock is in the public domain including the price and details of the other bids which failed to secure the deal but the Aquarena deal is shrouded in mystery. So now what’s happening?  
Leader of Worthing Lib Dems Alan Rice said: “Silence is often said to be golden but in this case it is more likely to be leaden. No news is said to be good news but that is not usually how Worthing’s Tory PR machine operates. What is happening?  Worthing residents deserve to know.”
Wednesday 23rd November – WSCC Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am
Wednesday 23rd November – WBC Planning Committee – Gordon Room, Town Hall at 6.00 pm 
Wednesday 23rd November – Lib Dem Northbrook/Durrington Ward Surgery – “The North Star”, Littlehampton Road 7.30 to 8.30 pm
Saturday 26th November – Lib Dem Castle Ward Surgery – St Richards, Collingwood Road, Goring 10.00 to 10.30 am

Saturday 26th November – Lib Dem Gaisford/Tarring Castle Wards Surgery – West Worthing Baptist Church, South Street, Tarring 10.30 to 11.30 am 
Monday 28th November – WSCC Governance Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 2.15 pm
Tuesday 29th November – WSCC Planning Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am
Tuesday 29th November – ADC & WBC Joint Strategic Committee – Council Chamber, Adur Civic Centre at 6.30 pm
Wednesday 30th November – WSCC Strategic Environmental Services Select Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am             


Saturday 3rd December – Lib Dem Central Ward Surgery – St Pauls Centre, Chapel Road 10.30 am to 12.00 noon
                              and every first Saturday of the month

Saturday 3rd December – Lib Dem Broadwater Surgery – The Community House, Dominion Road 2.00 to 4.00 pm  
                              and every first Saturday of the month
Tuesday 20th December – Lib Dem Durrington Surgery – New Life Church, Durrington 7.00 to 8.00 pm

                                       and every third Tuesday of the month 
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