Geoffrey Theobald: Showing solidarity in the face of evil

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald is leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council
Councillor Geoffrey Theobald is leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council

Where else can I start my column, than the dreadful events that took place in Paris last Friday.

Where else can I start my column this week than the dreadful events that took place in Paris last Friday.

I, along with my fellow political group leaders have signed a book of condolence in Brighton Town Hall along with the simple statement that sums up how I think we all feel: “The people of Brighton and Hove are united in sympathy for the bereaved and injured following the attacks in Paris. We stand together in the face of terror to promote peace and understanding.”

I would urge as many of you as possible to sign the book to demonstrate our solidarity in the face of such evil.

I found the scenes at Tuesday’s England v France football international at Wembley Stadium very moving indeed and it demonstrated once again sport’s almost unique ability to unite people.

It was the perfect statement to the terrorists that they will never change our way of life, however hard they try.

Sport in this city has been very much in the spotlight in recent months with the huge success at the AMEX stadium of the Rugby World Cup matches, this week’s England U21 football international and Brighton and Hove Albion doing so well in the Championship – long may it continue!

I have always been a strong believer in the power of sport to bring about wider societal benefits and there is no better example of that than Albion in the Community – the Seagulls’ charitable arm – which is 25 years old this year. Over that period they have invested £40 million in helping some of the most disadvantaged people in Sussex participate in football and wider

health and wellbeing initiatives.

As the council finally gets around to reforming and modernising many of its services, Albion in the Community offer a compelling case for why the community and voluntary sector should be given a much greater role in delivering them. Many in the sector feel that they have been somewhat marginalised by the council over the last few years and as we continue to argue, now is the time to change that.

And whilst we are on the subject of sport, I am continuing to press the council to bring forward plans for a new leisure centre at the King Alfred site in Hove. I understand that council officers are to recommend a preferred bidder in the next few weeks which is welcome news. Although it is somewhat disappointing that residents are yet to be able to have their say.

It really isn’t acceptable for a city of the size and stature of Brighton and Hove not to have a really top-class leisure centre when smaller towns such as Crawley and Burgess Hill do. I am looking forward to real progress on this front in the coming few months.