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Labour Southampton City Councillors claim Oaklands Swimming Pool could be saved by a loan
REBEL councillors fighting plans to permanently close a popular Southampton swimming pool say they have come up with a plan to keep the facility open without costing the cashstrapped council a penny.
The pair, who have defied party bosses to fight the controversial closure, are calling on civic bosses to take out a loan against the future income expected from the planned sale of land around the pool.
Councillor Thomas said: “It’s an honest alternative. They keep saying we can’t afford it, but we’ve found a way that would not cost a penny.”
Labour leaders have repeatedly argued the pool must close because it was losing huge amounts of taxpayers’ money, and could require hundreds of thousands of pounds to bring it up to standard.
But the two Coxford ward councillors say their plan centres on the socalled Lordshill Masterplan – an ambitious scheme to regenerate the area that has been resurrected since the new administration took power in May.
Although the plan has not been finalised, one of its central ideas is for the former Oaklands School site to be sold off, with the exception of the pool, along with land freed up by improving road layouts, to provide cash for community facilities.
In a joint statement, Cllrs Thomas and Morrell said they believe that should happen, but with the council using some of the money before it has actually received it.
They said: “Instead of waiting until the masterplan is up and running, the city counc i l should borrow now against the future income from the sale of the land and immediately start work on bringing the pool up to scratch.”
Councillors are next Wednesday due to vote on plans to remove the pool’s subsidy, although Southampton’s leisure boss, Councillor Warwick Payne, said even if that happens a community group could step in to take over its running.
But he said he fears borrowing against the Masterplan fund could make the scheme unviable in the future. He said: “What they’re suggesting doesn’t solve the long-term problem that the pool isn’t sustainable.