I thought I had fallen down a hole and joined Alice in her Wonderland, when I read the council report about the provision and maintenance of sports pitches in Lochaber. It has about as much grasp of reality, as the March Hare and Mad Hatter had at the tea party. And I suspect it’s not just the White Rabbit that disappeared down the hole, but large amounts of taxpayers money; wasted because of poor management and a lack of regular maintenance.
This was a report that I requested in June last year, in attempt to get a clearer picture about our local sports pitches. It has received widespread condemnation from Lochaber sports clubs and councillors, as it doesn’t reflect the experience on the ground. At the Lochaber Area Committee it was kicked back at officers, harder than any match winning goal. There was no financial breakdown of how much is allocated to pitch maintenance or what it is spent on; although there were plenty of excuses about a lack of resources. The report spoke about a Performance and Inspection Co-ordinator, which no one in Lochaber seems to have encountered. I would question whether we need such a glorified role and whether money would be better spent on real maintenance. Recently, contractors who had undertaken improvement works at An Aird in Fort William and Jubilee Park in Ballachulish, were dismayed to see the deterioration in the pitches, attributing this to a lack of routine maintenance. Equipment, which is apparently “available for use”, has lain unused for years, instead of being used for work that has been budgeted.
Councillors are not supposed to get involved with day-to-day management, instead we are told to concentrate on setting policy and scrutinising performance. That’s frustrating when we are given a report like this, where the council is clearly not performing, there’s an institutional denial of the problem and no action plan to sort the mess out. I demanded a real action plan for regular maintenance come back to the next committee and a separate ring-fenced budget for our pitches is agreed. The final sanction will be an internal audit of the local situation. Our pitches are in crisis in Lochaber, we will have to see if the council can avoid another own-goal on this issue.