My hon. Friend speaks with absolute conviction: the people of Durham are being failed. It is self-indulgent for councils to go ahead and build nice, big, shiny brand-new buildings. Members from the west midlands will have seen the west midlands police and crime commissioner wasting taxpayers’ money on shiny objects rather than investing in front-line policing, so I completely endorse what my hon. Friend said. The people of Crook deserve what they need, and I hope the council will listen to my hon. Friend, who speaks with conviction on all issues.
I plead with the Minister to help us in Kidsgrove and Talke. We will require Government support, alongside that from Sport England and the local council, to open up this valuable community asset, helping to create jobs and improve physical and mental health. I am not asking for large sums, but any financial support that my hon. Friend the Minister can give would show that Kidsgrove is no longer forgotten in this House. Reopening the swimming pool in the existing sports centre represents the quickest and lowest-cost option for providing a sports and swimming vision in Kidsgrove. This is not about profitability, although there are solid grounds to suggest that the sports centre would become self-sufficient; this is about health, happiness and community. When we find ourselves able to live freely and safely again, it will become more important than ever to participate in communal activities and keep ourselves healthy, physically and mentally—to join a Zumba class as the kids take their after-school swimming lessons, and to laugh and come together. This could, and should, become a key recovery project in the wake of covid-19.
I know that the Government are committed to encouraging a healthy, active lifestyle and levelling-up across the United Kingdom, and I fully accept that, as we brace for economic recovery, the public purse strings will be pulled that bit tighter. However, it has been demonstrated time and again that investment in leisure and recreational pursuits eases the strain on our national health service and our valued emergency services, as well as reducing crime rates and improving mental health. The people of Kidsgrove ought not to be financially penalised for wanting to keep fit—indeed, encouraging people to keep fit is a pillar of the Government’s strategy —so I implore the Government to do the undeniably correct thing and invest in my constituents, as we promised in December.