Mark Eastwood MP: Save our access to sport and leisure in Dewsbury

​The New Year is traditionally a time when those of us who indulged over Christmas start to think about getting fitter and healthier after we’ve finished off the last of the turkey sandwiches and tins of chocolate. There’s special offers on fitness equipment in those supermarket middle aisles, and there’s always a January rush for gym membership.

Mark Eastwood MP writes: Sadly this January, anyone hoping to start visiting Dewsbury Leisure Centre to get fit will be disappointed. Late last year we found out that RAAC concrete was present, and what was initially a temporary closure to rectify the issue has turned into the centre being completely mothballed.

I’ve received huge amounts of correspondence about this issue – it’s clear that the leisure centre represents far more to people locally than just a place to work out. It’s a lifeline for many people who struggle with health issues or social isolation, and a crucial for our children to learn to swim, and that’s why I’ve been extremely disappointed with the decision to keep Batley and Colne Valley’s facilities open, whilst Dewsbury’s is lost.

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I’ve made no secret about my concerns over Kirklees’ struggles to balance the books, but I know that funding is out there for sport and leisure that could help to keep our leisure centre open. I’ve been involved myself with securing some – hundreds of thousands of pounds has come into the constituency from Sport England, the Football Foundation, the National Lottery and the government’s Community Ownership fund. Every avenue possible must be explored in order to save our access to sport and leisure in Dewsbury, and that’s why I’ve taken the step of writing to Kirklees Council leader Cathy Scott to ask for the full details of the issues keeping the leisure centre closed, and what action has been taken to keep it open.

If steps are being taken to find funding from alternative sources then they have my full support, and any assistance that me or my team can give. I’ve enthusiastically supported the community in bids to rejuvenate Dewsbury’s historic arcade and our struggling high street, but I won’t join calls for government to hand a blank cheque to a council whose auditors identified “significant weaknesses” in their financial arrangements – any cash secured for the leisure centre must be ringfenced and only spent there.

I’ve even asked Coun Scott to look into the possibility of using the £20 million of Levelling Up money for Dewsbury town centre to help to fund this. It’s clearly a priority for local people, and saving an asset that brings people into town week in and week out is surely good for businesses and trade, as well as people’s general wellbeing and the vibrancy of the area.

Although Dewsbury will be broken up as a constituency at the next election, I’m proud to be the first Dewsbury MP who is actually from Dewsbury – and that’s why I will continue to raise the issues that we all care about here.

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My team and I are always happy to hear from you on this or any other issue, and we are here to help you and your family wherever we can. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch at [email protected] or by phone on 01924 939 007.

Thank you for reading