|New Pool deal retains public access to swimming facilities but cuts subsidy
> CIP will continue to run pool for five years
> New income-generating facilities
> £500,000 released for other spending, says Labour.
Hounslow Council has reached an agreement to lease the Chiswick Pool to Community Initiative Partnerships (CIP), the borough's not-for-profit leisure organisation, in a five-year deal which will retain existing public swimming facilities. The proposal must go to the Council for ratification on March 7th, but is expected to be approved.
Under the new deal, the CIP will receive a reduced subsidy averaging £52,000 p.a., compared to the current subsidy of £174,000 p.a. The deal includes plans for a new fitness centre to be built which will generate increased income.
David Giles, founder of campaign group Chiswick Community Pool, received the news with cautious optimism: "It remains to be seen how good a deal it is, but it's a step in the right direction. Great credit is due to the people of Chiswick, to pool users and pool staff who united behind the campaign... There is no doubt in my mind that without the strength and mobilisation of public opinion, the Pool could have been sold off or shut by Hounslow Council."
But in an interview with ChiswickW4.com, Council leader John Connelly said: "One of the things that has been difficult for us is working against a background of public perception that we wanted to close the pool. This was never the case. We always wanted to achieve a compromise where public access was retained while subsidy was reduced, and this deal will do that."
Councillor Connelly said that the Chiswick Pool has in the past received the highest per-head subsidy of all five pools in the borough, and that this situation became indefensible against other spending priorities. "When the CIP originally told us they could not operate the pool on a reduced subsidy, we market-tested various options which would retain public access." But the CIP returned with fresh proposals and, in negotiations led by Homefields Councillor Pat Sterne, the new compromise emerged.
The Council says that the deal "will free up more than half a million pounds over the next five years to support schools and other services."
The Council's press release gives no detail on the new income-generating facilities on the site, but clearly they will have to be substantial to be self-funding and make up the reduction in subsidy of over £100,000 p.a.
Councillor Connelly confessed to being "profoundly uninformative" to the media during the period of negotiation, but said he felt this had been necessary in achieving the result.
"There is always tension between leisure spending and spending on other council services, partly because other services have virtually no avenues for generating their own income," he said. "But we hope that this outcome will be a a trial run for our practice in implementing the new "best value" regime in the future."
Council leader John Connelly breaks his silence on the subject, in an interview with ChiswickW4.com:
"We never intended to close the pool."
The Campaigner's View:
David Giles says it would never have happened without public pressure.
"Chiswick's not a cash cow"
4th Feb: Frank Dobson is the only London Mayor candidate not to declare himself for the campaign to save the pool.
7th Jan 2000: Council representatives endure a barrage of criticism from hundreds of residents at a public meeting, but make no promises on the pool's future.