“It began with three women on the steps of the baths and grew to thousands…”

Article published: Monday, February 28th 2011

Community campaigners scored a huge victory in the battle against the closure of Levenshulme Baths today as councillors ordered a report looking at a continued future for the centre. The decision comes on the back of a mass campaign – started only three weeks ago – which garnered support from thousands of people in the area.

Levy Baths by zawtowers on flickr

A packed-out Town Hall meeting today reversed the proposal to close Levenshulme Baths after hearing from residents, users of the pool and the head of governors of a local school.

In its budget proposal for the next financial year Manchester City Council had targeted the leisure centre as one of the public amenities to be hit in the bid to slash a quarter from its spending. The closure of the baths would have saved an estimated £294,000.

But today at an Overview and Scrutiny meeting the Resources and Governance committee voted in favour of suspending the closure and ordered the Chief Executive to bring forward plans for investment to replace the pool as well as keeping the existing one open. The baths will now remain open for at least two years.

The council had previously identified the leisure centre as “failing to meet fit for purpose standards” due to its age and poor condition, while the budget proposal document saw it as apt for closure due to its need for “substantial capital investment and its lower usage figures.”

However Linda Merrell of Levenshulme Community Association told the meeting how figures for the number of users from the previous year had not been made available. She issued a plea to keep the baths open, saying that it was “at the heart of the community” and a “multicultural meeting point” which provided invaluable services to many different groups such as over 50s and people with mental health issues.

Also speaking was the head of governors of Chapel Street School, who warned of enormous transport costs and up to five per cent loss in attendance time should local schools be forced to take children to other leisure centres. Swimming lessons form part of the statutory curriculum in primary education.

image by zawtowers on flickr

In response to the budget proposal the Council received over 100 enquiries and a petition with 1,700 signatures – the single largest response to any of the proposals to cut services in the city. Several more petitions are yet to be delivered and supporters say the number of signatures will at least hit the 2,000 mark.

The decision of the Labour-controlled committee to bow to the groundswell of public support is the culmination of a grassroots community campaign to keep the popular centre open. A group to oppose the plans was set up following the announcement of the Council’s budget proposals only three weeks ago.

Two weeks ago a march through Levenshulme assembled over 600 people and at a Town Hall meeting last week young children from the area delivered pictures and letters to council leader Sir Richard Leese. Meanwhile events such as a mass swims have attracted scores of residents.

Rachael Howe who helped set up the campaign told MULE: “We are all ecstatic. All we can do is thank the community for being so involved. If everyone hadn’t got involved this wouldn’t have happened. People need to get out and be seen to do this; it has to be done if we are to change anything, especially with the current government and council. We must use this as a basis to say if we can do it so can you.”

When asked if she hoped it would provide an inspiration for other community campaigns she said:

“That is definitely our aim. People all over Manchester and across the country should hear about what we managed to do. It began with three women on the steps of the baths upset about the closure and it has grown to thousands of people. If somewhere as small as Levenshulme can do it I don’t see why others can’t.”

Tonight there will be a party outside Levenshulme Baths at 5.30 – everyone is invited

The Save Levenshulme Baths group meet at the Bluebell pub every Wednesday at 7.30pm. They are asking people to come along to their next meeting to input where to take the next stage of the campaign

Michael Pooler (with thanks to Mark Krantz of the Coalition Against the Cuts who was in attendance at the meeting)

More: Manchester, News

Comments

  1. Could you please report a little less biassed? It wasn’t just the save Levenshulme baths group that did the work, there was the Save our baths campaign and a number of third party initiatives.

    And from where I am now,
    it isn’t over yet. There is a huge rabbit hole underneath that document.The baths are only reprieved and that reprieve is build on flexible words of somebody that can make Houdini look like an amateur.

    Thanks

    Comment by Izzy Mansour on February 28, 2011 at 6:31 pm
  2. Great! well done Levvie
    Please now lend your voice to other campaigns – for example the council want to close Debdale Outdoor Centre, where hundreds of children learn to sail / windsurf / climb / canoe and hike….and all fom the centre of the city.
    http://petitions.manchester.gov.uk/petitions.ti/debdaleoutdoorcentre

    Comment by alison k on February 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm
  3. Thanks for your comment Izzy. As I am sure you can see in the article, several of the individuals and organisations involved are mentioned. Save Levenshulme Baths is only mentioned in the footnote – it is not given total credit for the community victory. Unfortunately it is not possible to give an exhaustive list of everybody involved in such campaigns so that is why we refer to it as a ‘community campaign’.

    Comment by michaelp on February 28, 2011 at 8:11 pm
  4. Well done to the Save Our Baths campaign. Particular thanks to Sue Macpherson, Karen Broady, Rachael Howe, Lydia Meryll, Peter Cookson, Sir Gerald Kaufman and Executive member for Leisure and Culture Mike Amesbury. Thank you to Bernard Priest the Executive member for Finance who listened to the huge voice of the community of Levenshulme. We will all work together on a plan for a new swimming baths for Levenshulme. What a difference a group of people working together as a community can make. Well done everyone. Great party at the baths and in the Bluebell after.

    Comment by Councillor Julie Reid on February 28, 2011 at 11:36 pm
  5. Great report! Thanks; the community did it. @Alison: we’ve linked your petition via our facebook page ‘save Levenshulme Swimming Baths.’ Our email is lovelevyhatecuts@gmail.com.

    Comment by Sue McPherson on March 1, 2011 at 1:52 am
  6. Oh and thanks to ClLr Reid for her hard work.

    Comment by Sue McPherson on March 1, 2011 at 1:54 am
  7. Excellent news – congratulations to everyone involved. It is just a shame that there is now a scramble by Labour, Lib-Dems and Trotskyites to claim credit for it. Particularly ironic given that the Labour Council proposed the closure and the Lib-Dems are in a party that are waging these savage cuts.

    Comment by Withingtonian on March 1, 2011 at 10:21 am
  8. Hardly a victory, probably just a tranfer of some cuts from one Manchester area to another.

    Lib Dem councillors for a ward is a sure sign of the presence of significant numbers of middle class, articulate, nimby lefty voters. The council should have been more sensible to start with and made more cuts elsewhere in its patch to avoid all the fuss.

    Comment by simon on March 1, 2011 at 2:51 pm
  9. @Simon. To be fair, the Libs have held Clrr seats here for years; nowt to do with loads of middle-classes. Lots of Levy and Gorton baths users are working class.

    Comment by Sue McPherson on March 6, 2011 at 2:02 pm
  10. [...] seem unconvinced that the council leadership is fully considering community needs. Last week a campaign forced a U-turn over the closure of a local swimming pool (bizarrely lauded by Labour MP Gerald [...]

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  11. Would you characterise the residents of Rusholme as middle-class articulate, nimby lefty voters? Uninformed idiot http://www.manchester.gov.uk/councillors/specificWard/60/rusholme

    Comment by Withingtonian on March 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm
  12. [...] the space of a few weeks, a community campaign in Manchester has gone from “three women protesting on the steps” to forcing the city council to reconsider its spending [...]

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  13. [...] Sue McPherson is a working mum and one of the organisers of the successful community campaign which saw Manchester City Council forced to reverse its decision to close Levenshulme Baths. [...]

    Pingback by Manchester prepares to march on London  —   MULE on March 23, 2011 at 10:24 pm
  14. [...] So far this year, they’ve faced protests and public criticism over their attempts to shut down Levenshume Baths, the outsourcing of Sure Start and the full closure of youth services. Reading through the budget [...]

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  15. [...] Baths, initially earmarked for closure, was saved thanks to regular and persistent opposition by residents acting through groups such as Save our Baths. This astonishing u-turn culminated [...]

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