Conservative Leader over-ruled on cost of equestrian centre

On Thursday evening Leader of the Opposition Cllr Spencer Drury revealed publically that the full cost of the new Equestrian Centre on Shooters Hill is more than £4m and called for it to be stopped as a waste of money.

 

In a speech to the Overview and Scrutiny Call-In Sub-Committee, Cllr Drury pointed out that the £3.1m cost previously mentioned in answer was simply the cost of construction, when in fact the whole cost (including fees and a ‘Pegasus’ horse crossing) was £4,046,694.  This meant Greenwich Council taxpayers were being asked to pay £3.9m (the British Equestrian Federation is contributing £170,000) for a centre focused on equine skills which would educate only 62 students each year. 

 

Cllr Drury also spoke of his concerns that a centre whose highest level qualification appeared to be a Level 2 (GCSE level) Diploma in Horse Care might not be equipping Greenwich residents with skills that would enable them to get jobs.  Cllr Drury asked repeatedly for estimates of how many jobs there were in the equine industry locally, but the only figures offered were national and appeared to come from the equine industry itself.  Under closer questioning it was suggested that most equine jobs locally would be in Kent or Surrey.

 

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee Call-In Committee disagreed with Cllr Drury and felt that spending £4m on an equestrian centre for 62 students each year was a productive use of taxpayers’ money.

 

Commenting after the meeting, Cllr Drury said “I am not disagreeing with the idea of skills centres and fully support those targeted at areas like engineering and construction but I really can’t see what this equestrian centre offers most Greenwich residents.”

 

Spencer continued “I really think there are better ways of spending this money.  We need to be clear that there are jobs being lost across the Council, charges being raised and services like libraries appear set to be cut, but the Council has chosen instead to spend £4m training local people for a niche industry.  This does not seem to me to be a reasonable use of taxpayers’ money and yet again the Council are building on green space for their own purposes.  By the time future generations realise we have betrayed them by allowing this Council to borrow millions of pounds to destroy the grass, trees and other open spaces it will be too late – it will be like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.  As Councillors, regardless of party, we need to start challenging the spending and environmental priorities of the Labour Cabinet.”