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County to decide on Pools future

John Freeman

Lancaster City Council says it will be up to Lancashire County Council to decide the fate of community swimming pools in Hornby, Carnforth and Heysham - effectively washing its hands of the issue which has outraged users.

The Lancaster Guardian reported last week that the swimming pools, which it took over from County back in 2001, faced the axe as the City Council again had to cut its budget for yet another year in order to ensure it keeps council tax rises within government-imposed limits.

Lancashire County Council actually owns pools next to schools in Hornby, Carnforth and Heysham but, just as local museums are owned by the City and run by County staff, these pools are currently managed by Lancaster City Council and subsidised to the tune of £133,500 and are mainly used to provide swimming for schools and swimming clubs.

On Tuesday, the City Cabinet agreed to give the county council 12 months notice to end this partnership and as a result the pools are due to be handed back to the county council from April 2011.

As their owner, it will be for the county council to decide the future of the pools,

“The city council faces an uncertain future with regards to its budget with the very real possibility that our funding from the Government will be cut in future years," notes Coun Stuart Langhorn, leader of the council and chair of the Cabinet. "As a result we have to look now reducing our spending on those areas where others have the responsibility. This is a sensible approach because it allows time for the county council to look at alternative ways of providing this service.

“In this case we heavily subsidise the community pools but they are owned by the county council. As the local education authority they also have the responsibility for school swimming, which, along with swimming clubs is the main use of the pools.

“Now the decision has been taken to hand the pools back it will be up to the county council to decide their future.”

The county, of course, has its own funding problems and the newly-installed Conservative leadership are looking to make savings in their budget. virtual-lancaster has been told it is examining options for privatising many services, for example, including waste collection - but that could extend to the running of these pools.

Users condemned the proposal to close the pools when news broke last week. Although the Council report that framed the Cabinet's decision suggested Salt Ayre Sports Centre and Ripley St Thomas CE School could accommodate some of the school and public swims, while the district has another 12 private pools, Mark Smith, head coach at the Carnforth Otters swimming club, whose 200 members train at Carnforth and Heysham, said Salt Ayre would be unable to accommodate all the sessions.

"This would devastate our club," he told the paper. "There's nowhere else for us to go so our club would just shrink and it would finish us as a competitive club.

"There are three ex-Carnforth swimmers targeting the 2012 Olympics but that would just not happen in the future."