Yesterday evening, I managed to get myself involved in a mini-Twitter discussion, as opposed to spat, this time about the Bristol Arena. That is to say the long-planned but not really expected new fangled arena situated near Bristol Temple Meads station. It turns out that potential costs have escalated to a figure not unadjacent to £200 million. Mayor Marvin Rees is now beginning a process of consideration as to whether the project should actually go ahead or, once again, get kicked into the long grass. I wonder which option he will choose?
I was told last night that the £200 million was affordable because the council would be borrowing the money. Oh, that’s all right then. Marvellous Marvin could visit the Magic Money Tree and come back with a fifth of a billion quid and the council (tax payers) could repay the amount over however long it took to repay it. Easy, as Big Daddy astutely put it.
Given the catastrophic cuts to local authority spending, I would struggle to justify any amount of spending on such a luxury item as an arena. Yes, it is slightly embarrassing that we have to travel to Brum or London to watch X Factor Live or Ed Sheeran (thank god), but embarrassing is not a word I would use when I see elderly people with dementia, for example, unable to secure basic social care. I would rather the council borrowed £200 million to give dignity to people in old age.
And I simply don’t buy the argument that it’s just dandy to borrow money to build an arena because the council tax payer would get her and his money back again by the end of next week or possibly in 100 years. They might, but as investments go, it’s nearer to putting money on Accrington Stanley qualifying for the Champions League next season. With Bristol’s track record, it would probably go bust.
If the old Brabazon hangar at Filton is cheaper, then just build the bloody thing and get it over with. I mean, it would be nice to have an arena, but a converted airplane hangar is better than nothing, isn’t it? Certainly from a personal point of view, if anyone decent ever played there, I could walk home afterwards.