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Councillors rebel in battle over Oaklands pool
They voted through a “mini-budget” that will withdraw the loss-making pool’s annual £235,000 subsidy from next year, although agreed to talk to community groups willing to take it over during a consultation on 33 job losses.
Two Labour ward councillors in Coxford – former Cabinet member Keith Morrell and Don Thomas – who had vowed to fight to save their local pool voted against party colleagues.
It was unclear last night whether they would be expelled from the group or face other disciplinary action as their future was still being considered by senior party bosses.
Cllr Thomas said he was refusing to implement Government funding cuts that threatened a “dismantling” of local government.
The avowed socialist said: “I will do all I can to save Oaklands and, come to that, any other service or facility not just in my neighbourhoods or in my ward, but any place, anywhere.”
Cllr Morrell said estimates of a £500,000 long-term repair bill amounted to a complete rebuild and said the pool – used by 300 people a day and 20 schools – could be reopened for far less.
Tories said it could reopen with around £10,000 in immediate repairs while its longerterm future could be resolved, or an alternative built as part of new development.
Tory leisure spokesman John Hannides accused Labour of “turning its back on the people of the city” in an Olympic year when they should be promoting health and fitness.
Coxford ward councillor Sally Spicer, who had claimed she would move “heaven and Earth” to save the pool, voted for the cuts.
Labour finance boss Simon Letts said the pool had been starved of investment and neglected by the Tories.
He said: “If we do keep Oaklands pool open we will have to do it on the basis of a community solution, not a £250,000 subsidy.”
Speaking afterwards, council leader Richard Williams said: “I’m very surprised that two Labour group members have felt unable to support our proposals to help move our city forward in tough times and deliver manifesto commitments we have all signed up to, when we know the terrible pressure of the too far, too fast cuts forced on local government by the Tory-lead coalition Government.”