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Southampton councillors call for Oaklands swimming pool referendum
REBEL councillors have called for a minireferendum on the future of a closurethreatened Southampton swimming pool – and have even offered to pay for it out of their own pockets.
Labour city council representatives Keith Morrell and Don Thomas are spearheading the campaign to fight the controversial axing of Oaklands Pool in Lordshill , and want people to be given a “proper say” on what happens to the facility.
Authority leaders say the popular pool must close because it was making huge losses and would cost up to £750,000 to bring up to standard.
But campaigners vehemently fighting the plans say the leisure facility is vital to the community and could be reopened for as little as £10,000.
As reported by the Daily Echo, around 100 residents packed into a public meeting at Lord’s Hill Church on Friday to blast city leisure chief Cllr Warwick Payne over the decision to shut Oaklands, which was one of the first actions of the new Labour administration.
Coxford councillors Morrell and Thomas defied party group bosses to vote against the plans not to reopen the pool, which has been closed since May for repairs.
The pair have criticised a consultation on the move as “a sham”, and now say they want to see the council come up with alternative options for the future of the pool to be put to a public vote – paid for from their council allowances.
Cllr Morrell said: “All it would cost to reopen the pool is the cost of the pipes.
“We would like a proper consultation with people in the area, and, of course, find out what we can do to save its future.
“What we aim to propose is that if Warwick could come back with some constructive solutions and answers then we would conduct at local referendum to see if they’re acceptable.
“It wouldn’t cost a penny because it will come out of our allowances.
“If he can come up with constructive proposals it will get a big yes vote from the people to say ‘yes, we want our pool’.”
Cllr Payne said the council is keen to hear from any community groups willing to take on the pool, but he is unconvinced of the point of a referendum.
He said: “We need to know what it aims to achieve and how it would work.
“If it’s a survey to ask if people are disappointed about it closing, I would tick that box. The point is, the council hasn’t got any more money to pay for it.
“What I could see as being useful is to flush out anyone who isn’t already aware that we’re looking for this type of group to take it on, because we’ve only had a couple of interested parties so far.”