Welcome to Issue 41
What do Brexit and the Leisure Centre refurbishment have in common? Well quite a lot actually. Firstly, both have been highly controversial and caused divisions. Secondly, it seems that public opinion is roughly divided down the middle in both cases. Thirdly, I am sitting on the fence on both counts.
I chose not to vote in the Brexit referendum for two reasons. Firstly I didn’t feel as though I had any idea of what we were voting for. Even now, two years down the line, although the picture is slightly clearer there is still much uncertainty and confusion about what the full consequences will be. Secondly, I can see arguments both for and against our membership of the EU. On the one hand it has given rise to a huge, expensive and largely unaccountable bureaucracy which is easily controlled by powerful corporate interests. Our power to influence how we are governed was already miniscule but it has been further diminished by our membership of the EU. I can also understand why so many people are concerned about immigration and population increase on an already overcrowded island.
On the other hand, I believe that ultimately we are much stronger when we cooperate and work together than when we separate and compete. In this respect I consider that the EU is a noble project. Surely it is better for us to extend a hand of friendship, to accept that we are all part of the human family with the same aspirations and to help each other to realise those aspirations than to recreate borders and revive old rivalries and resentments? I am profoundly ashamed of our history as an Imperial nation which invaded large parts of the world, committed genocide, employed slavery and ransacked resources to build up huge riches and privileges, many of which we still enjoy today. It saddens me greatly that much of the pro-Brexit rhetoric is infused with nostalgia for this era when ‘Britannia ruled the waves’ and implies that our nasty neighbours in Europe are somehow stealing all of our ‘hard earned’ wealth. Thus an unlikely alliance has been formed between the Imperialist dinosaurs led by our rich landed gentry and the disaffected working classes, by using the age old tactic of appealing to our lowest tribal instincts and creating a common enemy – either ‘foreigners’ or ‘do gooders’ who embrace integration and compassion. We are still one of the richest nations on Earth with an average income of almost £30,000. Many of us are living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet because of vast inequalities in wealth distribution, not because of our European partners. When I think of our arrogance and lack of solidarity with our European brothers and sisters I am once more consumed with shame.
The plan to expand the Leisure Centre and incorporate the Library and Community Services there, appears to have caused a clash of the two communities which I have referred to in a previous editorial. On the one hand the younger generation who make good use of the Leisure Centre believe that a multi-million pound investment in it can only be a good thing and are incredulous that their ‘out of touch’ town councillors could have rejected it. On the other hand, the older generations are concerned that the transfer of important services to the sea front will make them less accessible and wreak further devastation upon the town centre which is already suffering from several closures.
When I listened to the presentation of the project by ERYC officers I couldn’t help but be impressed by their enthusiasm and claims that by amalgamating services, which they have done successfully in Haltemprice, they would increase library usage as well as their capacity to promote literacy and healthy lifestyles. Upon reflection, however, I wondered whether the measures will necessarily have the same effect here. Only time will tell but it also occurred to me that the only extra facility that we will gain from this multi-million pound investment is a larger gymnasium with views out to sea. Is this really a wise use of taxpayers’ money at a time when so many of our basic services are being cut? To what extent is the project being driven by the urge to cut staffing costs and spend EU capital funding before it ends (another link with Brexit)? What about the environmental impact and the disruption to services that the new building will cause? What will be the effect on the town centre?
For a fraction of the cost ERYC could create a beautiful woodland park on the South Prom with adventure play, picnic and exercise areas, to be enjoyed by all ages and which would be the envy of seaside towns everywhere.
I look forward to hearing your views on all of these issues.