Thursday, November 28, 2013

Leisure Centres Update

You may have noticed that the council have confirmed plans to close nine leisure centres across Birmingham and build six new ones, which will then be operated by the private sector.

The news for Yardley and Acocks Green is good - Fox Hollies will remain and Stechford Cascades is lined up for replacement. Both of these are significant regional facilities - Fox Hollies provides one of the few all-weather athletics tracks in the city (just refurbished at the cost of £300,000) and the Cascades pool offers the only pool capable of hosting swimming galas. The problem with pools is that they are hugely costly to run and those costs spiral as the facilities get older - they weren't designed with current fuel costs in mind and only Bournville has a pool that benefits from free heat from the Cadbury's factory. There's an annual £6 million cost of running our pools across the city, which has proved unsustainable in the face of government attacks on our spending.

There was never a threat to close either the Cascades or to Fox Hollies.

Your Labour councillors in Yardley were very clear that they would not tolerate any plans that would see either closed and we backed the plans to rebuild the Cascades, which is pretty much at the end of its operational life. We actually had cross-party agreement on this proposal. Any suggestion that we even suggested closure of either site is absolutely untrue.

It is true that Labour opposed an opposition motion in council that would have blocked the closure of any pool in Birmingham, but that is because we believe in devolved power - these decisions rested with the districts. For example, Tiverton Road pool was slated for closure by Selly Oak District - it requires investment and will face competition for existing custom from the new pool at Birmingham University. I voted against the opposition motion to ensure that power stayed in the districts.

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