Wednesday June 21st 2023
West Lothian will see three swimming pools close their doors for good at the end of August after West Lothian Council granted its consent to plans its arm’s length leisure trust say are vital to save the entire charity.
Councillors met behind closed doors at the end of a marathon Executive meeting which had earlier heard pleas of the saving of Broxburn pool by staff member Michael Gilbert.
Broxburn pool will close along with Xcite Armadale and Xcite Livingston at the end of August.
The Howden Park Centre, also run by the West Lothian Leisure Trust has been funded until March next year by the council and other options will be looked at to secure its long term future.
Council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick said he was “devastated” by the decision, and insisted “It is the case that no stone was left unturned to look at alternative options.”
The Executive had also earlier rejected another bid by the SNP opposition for the debate to be held in public. The party argued again that the decision had already been made so commercial confidentiality would not be breached.
A spokesman said: “Whilst an alternative solution has been found for Howden Park Centre, no proposals were considered to be credible and viable that would have allowed for the continued operation of Xcite Livingston, Xcite Broxburn Swimming Pool or Xcite Armadale.
“Consent has now been granted to West Lothian Leisure to cease operations at the three pools after work to identify credible alternative options were exhausted without success.
West Lothian Leisure’s day-to-day running costs continue to be significant for each of the three pools, and each facility makes a significant financial loss each month. The three pools are expected to make a combined operating deficit of over £900,000 next year alone.
Council Executive has requested that council officers actively engage with groups expressing an interest in Community Asset Transfer of these three facilities.
The council also has plans to allow for more public, community and other non-curricular use of Deans Community High School, Inveralmond Community High School, James Young High School, Broxburn Academy and Armadale Academy, from 31 August 2023. Council officers will continue to work with schools and WLL to ensure that the timetable for these pools is done in response to demand, makes best use of resources available, and does not impact on school use.
Given that there is capacity at these pools, it is anticipated that this will help to mitigate the impact of reducing the total number of pools.
An amendment by Broxburn Conservative councillor Angela Doran-Timson called for the retention of the pool.
Her amendment added: “Whilst utilising school pools is a second-best option, those in Broxburn will be hampered by poor public transport and gaining access to the swimming pool in Winchburgh will not be possible for some.”
Therefore, recommendation nine will not include Broxburn swimming pool and West Lothian Council will fund Broxburn Swimming Pool to remain open until 31st December 2023, by providing one-off funding of £99,000. ”
After the meeting the Labour leader of the council Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: “I am devastated that we are in this position whereby we have to grant West Lothian Leisure consent to cease operations at these three pools. We are all extremely saddened and disappointed that WLL are in this position.
“Let’s be very clear, this is the council that has stepped in to save care homes and to help provide a future for Howden Park Centre while ensuring that public swimming remains available at Broxburn Academy, Armadale Academy and 3 secondary schools in Livingston from 1 September.
“We have not been given a single penny of extra funding or support from the SNP Government to help.
“We have cut over £150 million since 2007 with a further £40 million to find over the next five years. Local services desperately need the SNP Government to provide additional funding and they have continually failed to do so.”
West Lothian has considerably more public swimming pools compared to other areas in Scotland, and the change will mean that the number of public swimming pools in West Lothian will reduce from 19 to 16.Tweet Share on Facebook