Do Bury Council have something against their local communities?

During today’s fantastic win for Unsworth U14B Juniors at home to Whitworth in the NBJFL Main Cup; I was shocked to see a bill that had recently arrived from Bury Council to the tune of nearly £600.

From 2008 it became a legal requirement for regular water safety checks to be carried out, to check for fatal conditions such as legionnaire’s disease. Bury Council previously carried out these water safety checks free of charge, but have now introduced an annual charge of £585.52

As a club, we have been told that if we do not pay it within 21 days, legal action will be taken to recover the cost and the club will be shut down. Further, the letter accompanying the “invoice” threatens our chairman with a CCJ if the bill remains unpaid.

Tory-controlled Bury Council’s callous attitude is revealed in this week’s Prestwich & Whitefield Guide, where Tory council leader Councillor Bob Bibby said “These self-managed centres cannot have everything their own way. If they want to self-manage their affairs, that includes taking on board financial commitments. It is up to them to put money aside for things like this, even if the notice period is short.”

Just like businesses and other organisations that have ongoing costs, our Unsworth Junior Football Club has a committee which meets monthly and one of our tasks is to budget for the year ahead. We take into account all costs (such as rates, utility bills, equipment, security, league fees and winter training costs to name but a few) when we set our player subscription costs.

Separate from our day-to-day running costs, we also have a development fund (ring-fenced from our main running costs) which is earmarked to refurbish our dilapidated clubhouse. For the last year, Unsworth Junior Football Club has been on a fundraising drive, led by my sister, Denise Middleton. It now seems that Bury Council expect us to spend our development cost on this on-the-spot water tax.

What should we say to all those children that gave up their Sunday afternoon last month and raised nearly £900 from a Sainsbury’s bag packing day? Sorry chaps, you worked so hard to raise money for a new roof for your clubhouse, but now Bury Council wants to steal most of it back.

No other Council in the Greater Manchester area charges for these essential water safety checks (which cannot be done by anyone other than the council) – this includes Salford Council, who I am regularly critical of.

It may be a co-incidence, but this decision by Bury Council to charge Unsworth Junior Football Club and nearly 30 other volunteer-run sites across the borough for water safety checks that were previously free, follows hot on the heels of a landmark employment case which Bury Council lost in August. Bury Council lost over £600,000 after losing an equal pay ruling which proved that women workers were paid less than their male counterparts. Cynically, it seems the Tory-controlled Council intends to recoup the money from volunteer organisations such as Unsworth Junior Football Club

I’ll be calling on Cllr Bob Bibby to reverse this decision at Bury’s full Council session at the end of this month, as I will be able to attend. Unlike Salford Council’s session, Bury’s is held at a family-friendly time of 7pm.

As a side-note, Bury Council’s further destruction of their local community continues with the news that they are about to agree to submitted ‘development’ plans that will see Prestwich & Radcliffe community venues such as The Longfield Suite and Radcliffe Civic Centre demolished.

It is times like these I am glad I live In Salford. We have learned to value our community and see the benefit community involvement gives back to our society as a whole. Perhaps, for once, Bury could look across the border towards Salford as a great example of how community facilities such as civic centres and sports facilities genuinely improves the lives of it’s citizens.