Waltham Forest Council has cancelled plans for a lido at Low Hall. Rising borrowing and materials costs, as well as a substantial increase in demand for council services, have made the project unviable.
The council has a legal and moral commitment to both protect essential services for our residents and balance the budget. A substantial financial investment to fund a lido as part of wider plans to improve the existing sport and leisure facilities at Low Hall would impact our ability to support these services.
This decision to cancel was made due to a rise in the cost of borrowing and materials, and uncertainty over long term Government funding at a time of increased demand for essential services. In 2013, 57 per cent of council funding came from the Government. Today, that has fallen to 34 per cent.
This increased demand includes:
- a 70 per cent rise in the number of families using council-funded foodbanks in 2023
- 1,000 more elderly and disabled adults being looked after by the council in their own homes since 2019
- 50 per cent more people at risk of becoming homeless seeking support from the council in November 2023 than in the year before
Construction costs for the lido would be in the region of £33.5million, funded via capital borrowing and an annual financing requirement estimated at £2million a year. The borrowing requirement would have had an unsustainable long term impact on council finances. When Low Hall was announced as our preferred location for a new lido in November 2022, the Bank of England base rate stood at 3 per cent. This has now risen to 5.25 per cent.
Cllr Grace Williams, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, said: “At times of financial constraint for councils across the country, we are forced to make difficult decisions. Unfortunately, we can no longer justify the financial cost of a new lido during the current cost-of-living crisis. We have seen interest rates at a 15-year high, at the same time as funding an increased number of vital services for our residents.
“Since 2010, we have made savings of £120 million but even so, after 13 years of austerity, we are facing a predicted budget shortfall of £28 million by 2026/27.
“We are a council that prides itself on sound financial management, that never ducks making difficult decisions in the long-term interests of our residents. That has meant taking a closer look at our finances and ensuring that we do not overspend. It means prioritising services and people over other projects that will take money away from supporting residents.
“I’m hugely disappointed that we’ve had to stop plans to build a new lido in the borough because it’s no longer affordable, but it is the right thing to do in the face of a very difficult economic outlook and years of reduced government funding.”