Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Swimming pool at scrutiny

Finally the swimming pool petition has had its day at committee - at the city council's districts and public engagement  scrutiny committee yesterday.

City head of sport Steve Hollinsworth tabled a report on the proposals for the pool and Cllr Jon Hunt, chair of Friends of Beeches Pool, explained the background and how the petition came to be, and asked a series of questions. Jon pointed out the pool had been built originally in Great Barr because of a public campaign - and that in fact it serves a large cachment area from Great Barr to Aston and including 18 schools.
There was also an impassioned speech from the floor from one of our campaigners Allan Ball, who stressed the lifesaving benefits of swimming.
Committee members stressed that a petition of 10,000 signatures should not be ignored and promised to keep an eye on future progress.
Steve explained that Beeches Pool would go into the "future framework contract" with a number of other pools, probably across the north of the city. A report confirming the contract is set to go to city cabinet later this month.
Under the deal, which is similar to the one in place in Harborne, contractors will have to provide minimum opening hours, maximum fees, full repairs and protection of clubs and their times.
 Jon Hunt asked four questions:
1/ There had been problems at Harborne with the swimming club and these partly centred on the right of the club to run its own learn to swim programmes.
2/ Was there a risk the pool could be moth-balled if the contractor decided the repair bill was too high or something happened requiring major repairs?
3/ Was there a risk the pool could be moth-balled if the contractor decided it could not make enough money?
4/ What would be done about involving the community, especially given the huge amount of good will revealed by the campaign to save the pool?
 Steve replied.
1/ Yes Harborne and the swimming club had not worked out. There are a series of meetings planned with the ASA and the clubs about future arrangements over the next few weeks. It appears they are looking for a deal on learn to swim meaning the pools themselves undertake the basic learn to swim - but at some point children can transfer to the swimming clubs for advanced coaching.
2/ The contractors are liable under the contract to keep the pools in good repair for the 15 years of the contract It was recognised there could be significant costs at Beeches and these were being offset by the new builds and other capital investment in the other pools in the area.
3/ Under the contract, the contractors would have to keep the pool open.
In response to 2 and 3, Steve said the contractors would face financial penalties if they decided they could no longer run a pool.
"They cannot withdraw from the site without our permission. It would be a significant contract change."
The council believes that private contractors are much better able to market facilities and encourage use than the council. 
4/ Steve promised future public involvement, saying that pools would have user groups and management boards.
There was also a contribution from Oscott councillor Keith Linnecor and some discussion about getting investment from "planning gain", for instance from the site of the former Booths Lane golf course.
You can watch the full discussion here:

More Flashbacks to the campaign last winter:
Karen Hamilton, Jon Hunt and Allan Ball on the first day of campaigning

No comments: