Meeting Labour’s Commitment to Young People: Visit to Bicester Athletics Club
Politicians often get accused of not doing what they say they are going to do. Responding to issues raised with us over the last 12 months regarding facilities for young people in particular, prior to the elections in May, Labour candidates in Bicester committed to engaging with local groups who are trying to provide such facilities. To start the process, on Tuesday 14th July Labour Members Steve Uttley and Les Penfold visited Bicester Athletic Club. The visit had 3 aims:-
- To Look at the club in action.
- To Listen to what it provides for young people and what its aims are.
- To Learn what its concerns are and how Bicester Labour Party can best support it.
We were met by the Club Chairman and coach Steve Flynn who, while stating that he did not want the club to be seen as aligning itself with any political party, appreciated the fact that we recognised the importance of the club in providing opportunities for young people and taken an interest in listening to the club’s concerns.
He took us around the various disciplines in which volunteer coaches were training the junior athletes and explained there were approx. fifty 11-15 year olds taking part, but with many on school trips, that this was a quiet night! Steve said that the problems the club is facing were complex in terms of working with the councils and the national athletics governing body, and that they fell into 3 categories:
- Local Scale – for example, from dealing with tree root intrusion to the all-weather high jump surface to the lack of toilet facilities close by for the young athletes. The only funding the club had received came from the National Lottery, to construct the all-weather surface for the high and long jump, repair to which would cost the club £20K.
- Large Scale – for example, trying to convince the local, district and county council and the sport governing body to find the land and money to build a properly equipped sports facility. The statement from the latter was that there were tracks close by but these are approx. 18 miles away and the journey can take 45 minutes minimum in the rush hour.
- Future – all the various councils seemed to want to do for sport in Bicester was to mark out a field and call it a football pitch. With the town growing to 55,000 pop. over the next 10-15 years, both we and he found this hard to understand and felt the young athletes who had brought credit to the town and the club deserved better.
Despite not having any local Bicester councillors at the current time, our members suggested that the club we would provide all the support we could and that, as a start, the club:
- Initiate a petition that we would support for presentation to local MP Victoria Prentis
- Compose a list of questions with reference to club resourcing, which Labour councillors on Cherwell DC could present at council meetings.
Steve Flynn ended by saying that he really appreciated the recognition of the value of the club by our visit and the support we offered and agreed to give a talk to the Party in October/November. From listening to his extensive knowledge of sport and passion for working with young people in the area, this is definitely one to watch out for and put in the diary.