I WOULD like to respond to the recent criticism that I have received in relation to the decision to sell Ryedale Indoor Bowls Club.

This is without doubt the hardest decision I have had to face during my short time on the Council, and it something that I spent a considerable time deliberating.

I did not, as many people have assumed, follow my leader like a sheep, but I took the decision based on the facts presented to me.

Unfortunately, it is a sorry fact that the bowls club membership has collapsed over the past decade.

Once there was more than 1,000 members, but now it is down to less than 150. As a result, the club has failed to keep up with its rent and now the taxpayer effectively subsidises it to the tune of £30,000 per year – equivalent to one per cent of Ryedale District Council’s council tax precept. Other private clubs such as golf, rugby and tennis get nothing, and instead rely on their own fundraising to ensure their continued viability.

I, for instance, do not believe that it is fair that members of Malton and Norton Golf Club have to pay an annual membership subscription of more than £500, while Ryedale Indoor Bowl Clubs members receive an effective hand-out from the taxpayer of £200 a year.

However, I completely understand the sadness that the remaining members must feel at the prospect of losing their club. It is for this reason that they, along with any community, voluntary or charity group, will be given every opportunity to purchase the club. In fact, under the provisions of the Localism Act 2011, they will be given an exclusive period of six months in which to organise a bid.

If a bid is not forthcoming, the fact still remains that there are 13 other bowling greens within Ryedale, including two in Malton and Norton alone (Park Road, Norton, and the tennis club, Malton). Bowling is a sport that is very well provided for and this will continue to be the case even if the indoor bowls club is sold.

In these austere times, it is the duty of the council to utilise its assets to the maximum benefit of the community as possible.

Unfortunately, it is highly probable that the swimming pool in Norton will have to be replaced within the next ten years – yet there is currently no money available to replace it.

I would like to see the potential £400,000 raised from any sale to mark the beginning of a savings fund for a replacement pool. Surelythis would be a more meaningful use of taxpayers’ money, as it would secure the future of swimming as a sport for future generations.

One of the first lessons that I have learned as a politician is that every decision you make is going to annoy someone, and this decision has proved to be the most controversial.

Yet, it would have been all too easy for me to have been the martyr and voted for the bowls club to continue lapsing on their rent.

Yes, I could have won some popularity points, but I would have been lying if I thought that it was in the interest of the taxpayer. I will vote for what I think is fair and right, not what will get me the most votes.

Coun Luke Ives, Norton West Ward