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Oaklands pool facing axe in new council cuts plan
6:53am Monday 2nd July 2012 in Politics
COUNCIL bosses will today announce job losses and the closure of a much-loved council swimming pool in Southampton as they unveil a “mini-budget” setting out new spending plans for the city.
Staff were due to be told this morning that Oaklands Swimming Pool in Lordshill has no future – putting dozens of jobs at risk.
The Daily Echo understands Labour leaders have decided to close the pool, a centre of excellence for swimming, so they can use a £230,000-a-year subsidy to fund other initiatives.
Labour, which seized power in a local election landslide in May, will unveil its new spending priorities for the city later today as it begins to tackle an estimated £46m budget deficit over the next two years to meet Government funding cuts.
Opposition Tory leisure spokesman, Councillor John Hannides, said: “Oaklands has served the community very well over the years and has become a much-valued community pool. To close it flies in the face of everything we should be doing in this Olympic year to encourage participation in swimming as a healthy activity.
“It’s a decision that’s been taken without proper consideration.”
The pool has been closed since May after a leak was found.
A survey found the pool was structurally sound but needed repairs to the learner pool area.
The council said on its website last week that it was “working hard to ensure that Oaklands Pool reopens as soon as possible”.
The pool has become a political football in recent years, with Labour previously proposing large funding cuts while accusing the Tories of wanting to close it.
Conservatives pledged in their latest election manifesto to keep all the city’s pools and leisure centres open. They said they planned to work with developers and town planners to provide a new Oaklands Swimming Pool as part of the redevelopment of Lordshill district centre.
Labour made no mention of it.
Two years ago Tories handed over the management of the majority of council leisure facilities to a private operator to save the authority about £8m a year and bring new investment into the venues.
Oaklands pool was not part of the deal.
Labour’s council leisure boss Warwick Payne said: “If we do have to go ahead with the closure of Oaklands Pool it would be with an exceptionally heavy heart in my case. I am a former pupil of Oaklands Community School and have probably swum more lengths in that pool than any other and I have a lot of happy memories of it.
“No definite decision has been made yet on its future but we have to be mindful of the fact that the Tories have left us with a council with very little money left over and a swimming pool that lacks investment for many years and is now costing the taxpayers of Southampton around a quarter of a million pounds each year to keep open.”
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