It has been brought to my attention that proposals to secure ‘the Ranch’ for use by community football clubs are at risk.
In recent by-elections, despite the Conservatives gaining seats, Labour gained control of Workington Town Council.
One of their very first actions is to try and scupper the acquisition of the Ranch for community use.
On Monday 23rd May, the town council will consider a proposal to continue the purchase, alongside a Labour proposal designed to scupper the purchase.
The Ranch has been a part of Workington's sports scene for decades, being the home of British Steel's sports teams. The style of the changing facilities led to it being nicknamed 'the Ranch' - a name that has stuck. The social club alongside was incredibly popular, and I remember going to parties there. Latterly it has been the home of Workington Reds Junior Football Club,, whose hard work has created a fantastic junior football facility - and I've spent many hours pitch-side at my own children's away games!
MAY 2022 UPDATE
Thanks to a motion from Conservative Councillor Jacqueline Kirkbride, the town council proposed to continue the purchase of the Ranch, in the face of opposition from a number of Labour councillors.
I hope that the town council will be quick to complete the purchase and protect the Ranch for community use in perpetuity.
NOVEMBER 2022 UPDATE
It has been brought to my attention that Labour town councillors are again trying to scupper the purchase of the Ranch by trying to remove clause in the purchase agreement that protect the land from building, and for community use. The clauses allow buildings for community use but not housing, commercial or industrial.
Why would the council publicly promise these kids a future playing at the Ranch, but secretly try to enable building on there?
I have called on the town council to accept the reasonable clauses and proceed with the purchase ASAP, before the Reds Juniors current licence ends in January.
DECEMBER 2022 UPDATE
I have ensured that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) have fast-tracked the funding application to the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB), this has been approved and the town council were notified early December. The PWLB are just waiting for the funds to be drawn down, and have confirmed they will act quickly to get the funds to Workington Town Council.
The town council must now act at speed.
The town Council now have an emergency meeting on Monday 19th December, where I hope they will agree to all outstanding issues, to draw down the money and to complete the transaction January, protecting the Ranch for Workington Reds Juniors. They must issue a long lease at a rent that is sustainable for the club, in order that they can then draw on other funding sources to develop facilities at the Ranch with my assistance.
The next fight will be that they will no doubt want to increase council tax, in a cost of living crisis, to pay for the loan. This is despite them having cash reserves large enough to buy the land more than twice over - and that they will have an income from the rent.
They will instead try to sell you a rise on the basis that it's 'necessary'. Don't believe them.
Thanks to everyone for your support to this stage, it is only through your pressure that we have been able to force Labour into completing the purchase and protecting the club.
Thanks to all of you for your support! And huge credit to Workington Juniors Football Club who have stuck this out and used everything they have to pressure Labour councillors who were trying to weasel out.
Workington Town Council have agreed to buy ‘the Ranch’ and will be drawing down the money ASAP.
They must now issue a long lease at a rent that is sustainable for the club, in order that they can then draw on other funding sources to develop facilities at the Ranch with my assistance and that of the Cumberland FA.
MARCH 2023 UPDATE
Labour councillors have continued to try and scupper the acquisition of the Ranch for those kids to continue to play football, and I have had to intervene a number of times - directly with the council and at government level.
In a week where I’ve even had some of those Labour councillors, who were fed up of the nonsense, sending me internal party communications, I’m delighted that the Land Registry transfer form for The Ranch has finally been signed.
The political pressure worked, and it’s all thanks to YOU.
A tiny minority of Labour councillors tried to block it - and more than one of them was part of the call-in meeting yesterday which has held up Workington’s new Community Diagnostic Centre
I'm delighted for Workington Juniors Football Club that it’s finally happening. The next fight is their lease. But for now, that's a fight for another day in the not too distant future.
MARCH 2023 UPDATE
🥳 PURCHASE COMPLETED 🥳
🙏THANK YOU! 🙏
The Ranch purchase has completed today, THANK YOU to every one of you who supported Workington Juniors Football Club on this journey, and particularly Conservative Councillors Jackie Kirkbride, Deb Garton and Paul Larkin who have been relentless in pushing this.