Accusation that three Croydon leisure centres remain closed because they are in Tory wards is “completely ridiculous”, says Labour councillor

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

More than two months after leisure centres were allowed to reopen after coronavirus restrictions, three in Croydon remain closed with no sign of when they will open their doors.

Now Croydon council leader Tony Newman has dismissed concerns that the decision to keep the centres closed was political.

At a virtual council meeting on Monday night Conservative councillor Oni Oviri said: “Monks Hill sports centre, Ashburton and Purley leisure centres are all closed and coincidentally located in Conservative-held wards.”

But Cllr Newman hit back saying that the decision not to reopen the centres was “in no way based on the political colours of those wards”.

Cllr Newman said that he will look at the issue in “greater detail” but added that if lockdown measures come in again, the council was likely to be looking at more centres closing again.

He said: “I cannot believe that is the case, there are other considerations. In the face of a second wave of the Covid pandemic I think the discussion of how long those are open remains open.”

New Addington and Thornton Heath leisure centres opened fully on July 25, while swimming pools at Waddon and South Norwood leisure centres opened on September 12.

At the same meeting, Cllr Oliver Lewis confirmed that the decision not to open three centres was because they do not generate enough money to make it viable at this stage.

He said: “The suggestion that operational decisions on what sporting facilities should reopen is based on party political lines is completely ridiculous.

“The council, like our leisure partners GLL, has been hit hard by the pandemic and underfunding from the government, and as a result we’ve had to make decisions based on the centres which are performing better and generating better income.

“I hope we can get to a place in the future where all of our centres can reopen, but at the moment we’re opening the ones that have a better economic return for that contract.”

Cllr Oviri added that of 113 leisure centres operated by contractor GLL across London, just seven remain closed.

She said: “Why are we the only council in London that has failed to open leisure centres, that has had a huge impact on the health and well-being of residents?”

Pictured top: Croydon Town Hall


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