Staffordshire County Council has been accused of forcing the closure of a popular school swimming pool by rushing ahead with budget cuts without listening to the people who use it.
Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly said the Council’s decision to reduce funding to NCHS – The Science College, located in Ostend Place, Westlands - left the school’s governors without the £100,000 needed to run the pool and with little option but to shut it as a temporary measure.
The Newcastle school has announced that it has been forced reluctantly to close the pool at the end of this term until funding can be secured to reopen it.
Now Mr Farrelly has written to Ben Adams, Cabinet Member for Learning and Skills at the Conservative-controlled Council, asking what consultation took place with parents and pool users, as well as the school’s governors, and what options the Council explored before the funding cut was approved.
“Hundreds of people use the pool every week and its closure has been forced on the school by the wilful actions of the County Council acting in disregard for the interests of the people affected,” Mr Farrelly said.
“If the Council has a budget problem it is because of the actions of its own coalition Government. The blame lies squarely with the Conservatives in Staffordshire and in the coalition Government that is continuing to slash local authority budgets. It is wrong and unfair to blame the school.”
When the 25-metre pool shuts it will be ‘mothballed’ until funding can be found to reopen it, but there are fears that a prolonged closure could threaten its structure.
In his letter, Mr Farrelly has asked the County Council to meet the cost of a structural survey of the pool and to ensure that funds are reinstated so that the pool can open again as soon as possible.
“An assessment of the structural condition of the pool is necessary, but this could prove futile if the school is denied the funds needed to pay for repairs and maintenance,” said Mr Farrelly. “It is crucially important, therefore, that the school is provided with the resources necessary to reopen it and to keep it open in the future.”
“The Conservatives in Government, both nationally and locally, are pursuing a political agenda of cuts to public services, almost at any cost to the community. Coming on top of closures to libraries and youth services locally, the loss of swimming pools is a disgrace. The Council should be ashamed of its wilful disregard for the needs of residents,” Mr Farrelly said.
“Learning to swim is vitally important from as early an age as possible and school pools have always played a crucial role in supplementing the stretched resources and availability of municipal pools, such as Newcastle’s Jubilee 2,” he said.
“Several years ago local people lost the opportunity to use the pool at Chesterton High School, following the removal of funding by the then Conservative-led Borough Council. It is, therefore, doubly sad that NCHS now feels forced to follow suit for similar reasons.”