Anger as Tower Hamlets Youth Sport Foundation is axed in heated council debate
- Credit: Mike Brooke
A petition by 2,000 schoolchildren has failed to stop Tower Hamlets Youth Sports Foundation being axed in a stormy council debate last night.
The petition handed into the town hall called for its programme to be continued with its school sports staff after Tower Hamlets was named “best improved borough” at this year’s London Youth Games.
It urged the council to take over funding from its £3.5m sports kitty to relieve the burden on schools whose budgets are being slashed.
But the petition was rejected, with the council opting instead to take over the functions, which angered the youth sports foundation’s chair Chris Dunne who had made and impassioned plea directly to councillors.
“The council can’t do the job we’re doing,” he told them. “You spend less on youth sport than elsewhere because the schools have been doing it for you up till now.”
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He stormed out when a move for “a sustainable business plan” was rejected and shouted as he left: “You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves!”
Chris said outside the meeting: “This was the last chance to save one of the best sports foundations in the country—but it’s just been wrecked. The council will run the sports service into the ground. It was rubbish when they ran it last time.”
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Sports staff currently funded by the schools would now be axed and the foundation be wound up, he fears.
Earlier, Labour mayor Mayor John Biggs told councillors: “We have a bunch of trustees without a business plan running a service that’s in deficit. We cannot provide funding without a business plan for their salvation. We invited them to form a plan for their salvation and they’ve declined.”
He was interrupted by Chris refuting the claim and also brought anger from opposition councillors.
People’s Alliance group leader Rabina Khan told the meeting: “To ditch such work to the devastation of our young people is a shame to this council.
“The mayor was quoted in the East London Advertiser that we can’t afford to keep this foundation going, but there is £3.8m sports budget with no accountability and without a strategy.”
She had put forward “a robust and self-sustaining business plan” taken from the Sports Foundation, which was voted out by Labour.
Cllr Ohid Ahmed, from the Independent Group, said: “It is sad to see that the number of people participating in sports at a grassroots level has begun to fall.
“This is not the Olympic legacy we were hoping for – or that we were promised.”
Lib Dem Cllr Andrew Cregan urged his former Labour colleagues not to “ditch” youth sport. He called on the mayor to follow the guidance of Baroness King of Bow, Youth Sports Foundation trustee and former Bethnal Green and Bow MP, who said losing its services would be devastating and a disaster for Tower Hamlets.
The fight isn’t over yet. Youth Sport campaigners hold a piublicv meeting at St Hilda’s East community centre in Club Row, Bethnal Green, at 6pm this Sunday. They’ve invited the mayor and councillors to hear their case again.