Closure of Dimensions splash pool in Burslem 'would have benefited city'
FAMILIES 'would have benefited' from a deal to shut Dimensions splash pool and offer a discount at WaterWorld, according to the millionaire businessman at the centre of a secret deal.
Mo Chaudry has blamed 'narrow-minded politicians and weak officers' at Stoke-on-Trent City Council for the collapse of a behind-closed-doors agreement to offset the Burslem pool's closure by subsidising cheaper entry at WaterWorld.
He has spoken out after a paper trail of letters and emails dating back to 2007, which linked Mr Chaudry to senior officers and then elected mayor Mark Meredith, was disclosed to The Sentinel yesterday.
The documents, released after an order by an information rights tribunal, laid bare the deal which officers ultimately denied as public anger over the splash pool's closure grew.
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Mr Chaudry rejected claims the deal was 'secret', insisting he believed the senior figures who appeared to confirm the agreement without democratic approval had the authority to do so.
He maintains it would have provided a good deal for taxpayers, as well as eradicating the 'unfair' competition of a publicly-funded rival to his Festival Park business.
Speaking to The Sentinel, Mr Chaudry said: "In my opinion there was no such thing as a secret deal. I believed I had a deal with people who had a mandate to make that deal.
"I felt they made it clear they had a mandate and as far as I was concerned it was completely win-win.
"To me it was not secret, it was normal business conduct with discussions on a private and confidential basis that go on every day.
"I was assured it was not going to be a political decision. Those email confirmations would have said 'subject to further agreements' or whatever if that was the case.
"Joe Public would not have lost from this deal. The customer would have benefited considerably with access to a bigger and better facility. Narrow-minded politicians and weak officers didn't have the ability or the strength of character to deliver on something that would have been good for the city."
Mr Chaudry, Mr Meredith and former councillor Roger Ibbs were arrested on suspicion of various offences as part of a police corruption probe which led to no charges.
The documents show council community services director Julie Seddon wrote to Mr Chaudry, in an email copied to Mark Meredith, stating that it had been 'agreed' to close Dimensions and run a council-funded pilot of discounted access to WaterWorld.
The paper trail dates back to four months before the closure was made public and negotiations were so advanced that a press release was being discussed.
Former council chief executive Steve Robinson distanced the authority from the agreement as protests to the pool closure grew. It culminated in the council announcing it could not make the savings and scrapping the closure plans.
Mr Chaudry said his threat of legal action, which resulted in him receiving a £21,850 payoff to end the process, was taken not only because he felt a deal had been reneged on but also to restore his reputation.
He added: "My name and reputation is everything. That's why I wanted to clear my name."
Ms Seddon, who now works as Director of Customers and Communities at Northampton Borough Council, did not respond to requests for comment. Mr Robinson, chief executive at Cheshire West and Chester Council, declined to comment.
• READ MORE:The full Dimensions correspondence