Budget cuts may force closure of small pools

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TWO small swimming pools in Hull may have to close as a cash-strapped council tries to get to grips with multi-million pound cuts in funding.

Councillors will meet behind closed doors today to discuss the future of the city’s leisure services and a possible transfer to a new wholly council-owned company.

Previously moves to set up a trust to run the service was nipped in the bud, but with the challenge of having to make a further £40m cuts in the next two years, councillors are being told the status quo is “not an option”.

The council runs three swimming pools, two leisure centres, two golf courses, Hull Arena and Costello Stadium attracting 1.1 million visitors a year – but costing £3.4m to run, an average subsidy per visit of £3.12. The sites need between £2.1m and £4.5m spending to bring them up to standard.

The transfer would have tax advantages, with rate relief saving over £500,000. But overall savings would be reduced to £358,000, because management costs would be higher.

A report points out that transferring the service will fall short of the £1m savings required in the council’s medium term financial plan and says the target will only be achievable – whichever option is chosen – “without some radical changes to the leisure provision”.

The move could also see 20 to 25 staff being offered early voluntary termination and the smaller pools at multi-pool sites, Albert Avenue and East Hull, closing.

Coun Phil Webster said: “We are trying to avoid any front-facing staff going. There will be an evaluation of the pools that are currently operated within the buildings we own and there may be a reduction in the small pools on the multi-pool sites.”

Conservative Group leader Coun John Fareham said if such a proposal were to emerge “what matters to the public is that they don’t notice any change”. His group was less likely to be hostile as control would remain with a board made up of councillors.