Labour councillors will have a free vote on scrapping £22m arena plans
A £22 MILLION sports arena project proposed for Derby could be scrapped if the majority of the city's Labour councillors vote against it.
The party's leader, Councillor Paul Bayliss, said the matter was likely to be dealt with via a free vote on Monday, with each councillor able to speak their own mind in a debate.
Then, once a decision is reached, Mr Bayliss said the party would adopt the outcome as its policy which all its councillors would be expected to follow.
The news was confirmed after the authority's former leader, Tory councillor Philip Hickson, said he would leave Labour with the final decision on whether to sign a deal for the development.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
During the run-up to this month's elections, Labour party made vocal objections to the amount being spent on the arena which the council aims to fund through its reserves, borrowing and Government grants.
Now, after Labour won enough seats to take council control, Mr Hickson said it would be "morally questionable" for him to "give them the let-out of not making the decision to build the arena".
Derby Cycling Group has pleaded with Labour not to back out of the plans for the arena, which would include a velodrome.
Mr Bayliss, set to become leader of the authority, said he would not know what direction his party would take until the vote is taken.
He previously said it may be difficult to back out of the deal now because compensation could be due to the contractor.
Mr Bayliss said: "The council is drawing up a report for us ahead of Monday's meeting.
"We need to know whether the building can be brought in on budget and whether the remediation of the land can also come in on budget."
He added that, if it did not go ahead, refurbishment work would be needed at the city's existing leisure centres and that Labour needed to know how much this would cost.
David Clasby, of Derby Cycling Group, said Labour needed to realise that the arena wasn't just for "elite-class cyclists".
Aside from the velodrome, it would also feature a fitness suite with 125 pieces of gym equipment, badminton courts and would double up as a concert venue.
Mr Clasby said: "The arena will create jobs in construction and because lots of companies are interested in being associated with the venue.
"And having a top-class sports facility and concert venue helps make the city more attractive for investment."
Derby City Council had previously been run by a coalition of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Lib Dem councillor Hilary Jones was cabinet member for leisure and culture.
She said Mr Hickson's announcement yesterday had come as a surprise.
Mrs Jones said: "To say I'm annoyed would be an understatement. I'm a bit disgusted that, having worked with the Tories for 12 months, there's been no communication about this."
Meanwhile, Martyn Marples, the council's director for finance and procurement, said work towards getting funding for the arena was already under way.
He said: "We have not borrowed any money to finance costs incurred on leisure strategy to date, as the financial strategy is to use cash reserves rather than borrow immediately. Borrowing to finance this spend will follow.
"The council bid for £3 million of Sport England funding to support the project.
"We anticipate an announcement about the funding in the coming weeks."
The council was asked what would happen to this grant bid if the arena plans did not go ahead but had, last night, not responded.