Budget cuts may force closure of small pools

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”.

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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.