Councillor Mahmood Hussain, Chair of Perry Barr District, replied, assuring the meeting that the centre was not in line for privatisation. A lively discussion followed with a number of people expressing their fears that the Labour council could not be trusted and there was applause for contributors who argued that Labour should refuse to implement the Tory cuts. The three local councillors were thanked for attending and being prepared to answer our questions, but the news that £0.5 million would be removed from the District budget increased audience fears.
Local users highlighted the need for investment and improvements to the Centre. Steve Salt, the service integration head for the district, said that the centre would be one of those which would be re-designated a Wellbeing Centre with funding for new investment coming from the public health budget. Contributors welcomed the promise that the centre will stay in council hands, but were concerned that the idea of a Trust has not gone away, raising threats for the future. A proposal was made that Centre users and workers should be involved in plans for change, and concern was expressed about the future of our valued Play Centre as well as smaller local facilities.
Handsworth Against the Cuts will continue to campaign on this issue. This week’s announcement by the City Council that some of the city’s sports and leisure centres may be under threat shows that our campaign is vital and we will have to keep the pressure up.