Axe threat lifted as health chiefs pay pool costs

People power has been credited with keeping Hull’s only competition swimming pool open after health bosses stumped up running costs for a year.

Thousands joined campaigns and signed petitions after it was announced that Hull Council was looking at closing the swimming pool at Ennerdale leisure centre.

Yesterday, Hull Clinical Commissioning Group said it would be funding its £219,000 running costs as it tied in with its aim to create a “healthier Hull”.

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The pool is the home of the city’s premier swimming venue, Kingston-Upon-Hull Swimming Club, and there had been concerns that its closure would hamper the city’s ability to produce top-class swimmers.

However, there were warnings yesterday that the dire financial situation facing the council – which has to save £48m over the next two years – meant the axe would continue to hover over the city’s ageing pools.

Chairman of the Hull CCG and local GP Dr Dan Roper said: “We are committed to creating a healthier Hull. We feel that leisure facilities are part and parcel of that.

“It is not just about treating illness when it arises, it is preventing it... It very much fits in with the strategy of promoting the general health of people in Hull.”

Coun Colin Inglis, chairman of the Health and Wellbeing Board, stressed the funding was a “short- term fix”, adding: “If we spent the whole of the public health budget we wouldn’t meet half the cuts we are expected to make over the next two years.”

Ward councillor Danny Brown said public support had been vital: “A lot of people thought the council had made up its mind to close it.

“Thousands of people have been campaigning, writing in or sending petitions. I’ve had letters by the score.”

Meanwhile, the council is setting up a not-for-profit company to take over leisure services, which will benefit from tax breaks and be given greater freedom to secure grants.

Council leader Coun Steve Brady said this week’s announcement by SSE, one of the country’s six biggest energy firms, to ramp up bills 8.2 per cent showed it might be cheaper to build new energy-efficient facilities in future. A new combined ice skating and swimming facility has been mooted for the city centre.

He said: “Our power bills have gone up from £4m to £11m in 10 years and we have been barely able to raise the rates in that time. What we are trying to do is swim against the tide.”

Liberal Democrat deputy group leader, Coun Mike Ross, thanked those who had campaigned for the past two months, and added: “While we welcome this decision, we also recognise the significant amount of pressure it has taken to make Labour councillors look for alternative options.

“This whole process has been badly handled from the start.

“We need to know why the Labour administration didn’t just speak to the health service in the first place. The amount of distress this whole saga has caused to residents and users has been appalling.”