Article published: Tuesday, January 22nd 2013
Campaigns against leisure centre closures as part of £80m in cuts to local services are underway in Levenshulme, New Moston and Withington.
Levenshulme campaigners will demonstrate next Saturday against the planned closure of their swimming baths and library, as well as the wider cuts Manchester will face from April.
A hard fought campaign kept the baths open two years ago, when the Coalition government slashed the city’s resources by £170m.
But Manchester City Council now plans to shut Levenshulme Baths and other pools in Miles Platting, Broadway in New Moston and Withington. The closures are expected to save £1.8m in the next two years and £879,000 from 2015/16 onward.
Savings will be lower than otherwise in 2013/14 however due to the need to compensate Serco, the company operating the centres, for “loss of profit and repayments for previous capital borrowed on these sites” before its contract expires in April 2014.
Libraries in Burnage, Fallowfield, Levenshulme, Miles Platting, New Moston and Northenden will also go in a shakeup expected to save £500,000.
The council says it will make a one-off £10m capital investment to replace facilities in Withington and Chorlton, and build a new baths and library for Levenshulme to open in spring 2015. A new pool will also open in Beswick in the autumn of 2014.
“Not only has the Council changed course, but its promise of a new build hardly looks secure given the Coalition’s continued attacks on Council budgets”, said Save Levenshulme Baths and Library campaigner Sue McPherson.
“A lively demo is expected, along with a draping of black ribbons across all service losses in the area”, she added.
It is understood the council intends to fund the plans through savings made by closing the baths and prudential borrowing through its capital programme.
In a statement a council spokesperson said, “An analysis of swimming pool usage in the city shows that excluding school use and lessons, the average number of users is low. Experience from elsewhere shows that a smaller number of well-located modern facilities should increase usage.”
As evidence a council report points to experience in Rotherham, where visitor numbers increased from 848,000 to 957,000 after the replacement of 12 old sites by four new baths in 2010.
Campaigns against closures have already organised in Withington and New Moston however, and a protest in Levenshulme on the day the council’s draft budget was announced last Wednesday drew over one hundred people.
McPherson said attendees of a Levenshulme campaign meeting urged councillors to “roll back the cuts” and “not do the Tory’s dirty work”.
Senior councillors say refusing to set a budget which takes into account government cuts would leave them unable to collect council tax and pass responsibility for implementing the cuts to unelected officials.
She argued, “The Labour group say they must set a balanced budget; there is nothing balanced about a budget that makes the poor worse-off and shuffles deck chairs around on the Titanic.”
The demo will take place on Saturday 26 January outside the nearby Tesco before marching to Levenshulme Baths and library.
A planning meeting will be held Thursday 24 January at Levenshulme Inspire from 7pm – 8pm. For more info see www.savelevybaths.co.uk
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