Call for tennis court cash to go on ‘urgent need’ rejected over legal rules
PUBLISHED: 19:53 22 September 2020 | UPDATED: 21:25 22 September 2020
Demands for council cash earmarked to create new tennis courts to instead be spent on “local people in urgent need” have been rejected due to legal restrictions on the funding.
A fresh petition against plans to replace the grass tennis courts at Heigham Park with new floodlit facilities has been presented at a meeting of Norwich City Council.
The petition, signed by 680 people, called on the council to “redirect the approximately £200,000 earmarked towards spending that will benefit local people in real, urgent need”.
And Teresa Belton, who created the petition, spoke at a meeting on Tuesday, September 22.
She said: “Many Norwich residents are facing hardship, and their needs are going unmet. On top of deep cuts in government funding following years of austerity, the council has seen a huge loss of income due to Covid-19, and now says it is looking into a financial black hole.
“The funds intended for the expansion of facilities for tennis players would be far more justly spent on addressing urgent everyday needs such as accommodation for the homeless, community safety measures and more children’s play areas.”
But Matthew Packer, the city council cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said the money allocated, including £171,000 of external funding, was for the expansion of the tennis service and could not be reallocated.
He said the money, funded from the council’s capital budget, had “legal restrictions and “cannot be spent on everyday services”.
He said: “In line with local government legislation, the capital receipts required for the expansion of the tennis courts cannot be legally used to fund the revenue costs of everyday service needs highlighted in this petition.
“Boris Johnson and Conservative MPs, may not believe in following the rule of law. I, however, will not and indeed cannot endorse this council to follow a similar path.”
The Labour councillor added: “The city council has had to make in year savings due to the impact of Covid-19 and underfunding from central government.
“Importantly, we cannot use the funding committed to the expansion of Norwich Parks Tennis to plug the shortfall.”
Mr Packer said the new courts would offer a range of benefits to the city’s residents, including “improving mental and physical health, tackling obesity and combatting loneliness”.
He said the courts would offer “affordable” and “all-year round” sports facilities access, including free sessions for schools and members of the public, reduce instances of anti-social behaviour, and generate additional income for the council.
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