PROPOSALS to mothball a swimming pool because of “unprecedented government funding cuts” have been attacked by unions and swimmers.
Unison claim budget cuts are not the primary reason for the potential closure of Sutton swimming pool by St Helens Council.
Instead, the union fears the local authority wants to offload the Sutton Leisure Centre to another organisation, most likely the Sutton Academy.
Scrapping the costs associated with a swimming pool would potentially make the site more attractive to suitors, according to the union.
Steve Fay, of Unison in St Helens, said: “We believe the proposals to close the pool are not a commercial decision but to make it a more attractive package for outsourcing the facilities of Sutton.”
He also criticised the council for not entering into discussions with Unison about the potential shutdown of the pool even though it will have implications for staff there.
However, St Helens Council, which says it has had to find £50-million in savings since 2010 and faces a further £10-million of cuts next year, says that mothballing of the pool is one option that may help balance the books. It claims the move would save £180,000 a year.
Senior councillors and officers are currently drawing up budgets for next year and have to find significant savings.
Key town hall figures have warned more “unpalatable” proposals will have to be put forward.
In response to a Star question about the union’s claims, the council admitted talks had been held previously with the school but maintained, in this instance, the focus is on balancing budgets.
It read: “Discussions have taken place with the school on a number of occasions, going back as far as 2000, but to date no agreement has been reached.
“However, we must stress that at this stage we are only consulting on proposals to mothball the pool.
"A number of options are being explored, against a background of severe and unprecedented cuts to budgets across the whole council - which are impacting on a range of services in St Helens.”
Numerous readers have pointed out that the proposals were announced in the same week that Sport England earmarked £150,000 to get more college students active to build on London 2012 legacy.
The council has said that should Sutton close, school swimming and swimming lessons would be transferred to Parr Pool.