Chariots of Ire : The Oval Upgrade Charade

Earlier this week there was an announcement in the Wirral Globe that there was a Major revamp planned for Bebington’s Oval leisure centre . We were told that plans were to be approved by Wirral Council’s ruling cabinet later this month for the £775,000 upgrade and Cabinet member for leisure, Cllr Phill ‘Two L and Back’ Brightmore, said (no doubt in a press release written by someone else) :

The Oval – which famously was used to film key scenes of the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire – is one of Wirral Leisure’s flagship leisure centres, unique in the borough boasting a 25m competition pool, athletics track, football pitches, and tennis courts.

These improvements form part of a larger investment in Wirral’s leisure services, ensuring that they remain accessible and affordable for all residents, and represents another excellent example of Wirral Council’s careful management of its budget at a time of continuing pressure on local government finances.

Our services are extensive and Wirral Council invests £5 million a year in making sure that statement remains true, in addition to more than £8 million invested in the past few years on making sure our services are of the best possible quality…

So as is our wont we thought we’d bring you the reality behind the pre-election spin and report on events at The Oval from last night and from information we received late last year about a previous £1 million upgrade .

‘A concerned parent of a child who attends The Oval swimming club’ writes :
I think the council needs to be reminded about the cost in lives and not pounds that failure in fire safety can have if a real emergency took place. Remember Grenfell???
There was a power failure in Bebington last night whilst my child was in the pool at the Oval and it was very dark in quite a lot of areas. It was quite a scary experience.. staff to be fair did well, but when we stated it was the dark areas that upset us , and scared the children they quite openly and honestly stated that they have had problems for years with the emergency lights, and that the pool area only came on because staff constantly complained about it and it was only recently repaired otherwise that would have been also in complete darkness .
This is a big shock and I and many other parents are seeking reassurance from the council that the building is safe. Whilst staff were helpful the biggest surprise was their anger. We could hear one staff member say : “ I am *** fed up telling them but they never listen , they never come out, they don’t want to see what we have to put up with, they won’t move from the Concourse *** the lot of them.” When we asked another staff member what that meant , they said it was a reference to senior managers who never visit  and never listen to staffs real issues like emergency lights not working.”
So what happens when there has been upgrades at The Oval in the past ? We were sent this photo and comments last November
image1

The Oval Bebington

Newly built kitchen cafe at least 6 months old. Inc in the fixtures and fittings a £3500 coffee machine, a new oven sat for months unpacked (now possibly missing) value £10,000+

None of this has ever been used and may never be used.

Needless to say we asked ‘How come?’ only to be told:

No idea, it appeared soon after the gym renovations at the Oval. It got built/fitted but has not been used. A lot of wasted cash. Maybe they can’t get anyone to run it within. Or not financially viable to external operators. Either way it’s very expensive and all quality stuff. Likesay the oven was sat there still unpacked for months and I’m not sure if now fitted or disappeared.

Although we understand the above was part of a previous  £1 million upgrade  of The Oval announced in 2016 more recent enquiries of a well placed source suggest the situation remains the same:

The white elephant .They had plans to hire someone. I think there is a tale to tell on that. Badly designed and not fire compliant. Also as asset management don’t seek planning permission to alter a structure because they are a law unto themselves… 

However we’d be quite happy if Cllr Brightmore could reassure us that this is no longer the case and that there are ‘robust’ plans to ensure that in the future £775,000 of public money will not be going down The Oval’s notoriously dodgy drains. Might we suggest it’s time to move on from past glories as Wirral Council are rapidly running out of money as fast as Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams on anabolic steroids…