CAMPAIGNERS fighting proposals to axe three swimming pools claim a public consultation exercise has been “skewed” to achieve the result Wakefield Council wants.
Wakefield Council chiefs are seeking to close pools in Castleford, Pontefract and Knottingley and build one new pool in the Pontefract and Castleford area.
Last month, the local authority – which must cut £185m from its budgets by 2020 – launched a six-week public consultation on plans to review leisure services in Wakefield district. The public consultation ended yesterday.
In a letter in response to the consultation, Jeff Allinson, Chairman of Pontefract Pool Users Forum, wrote: “We believe the consultation process has been skewed to achieve the result the council wants.
“The review relates to leisure centres. It does not ask people about the loss of local, much valued swimming pools.
“Yet we know that 9,200 people were concerned enough to sign the Save Five Towns Pools petition to retain the current level of facilities.
“The ludicrous question was posed at our group consultation workshop: ‘Would you prefer a new leisure centre or would you wish to continue using the existing facilities until they are run down?’
“We have examined every part of the report for Pontefract pool and believe that the faults are greatly exaggerated. This may be the case for other pools too. The most glaring example of this is where the cost of raking out and pointing 12 square metres of brickwork is priced at £4,000 when the realistic price should be £480.”
Coun Les Shaw, Wakefield Council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said: “We have worked hard to look at lots of options for the district’s swimming pools, including commissioning an independent report from one of the country’s leading financial consultancies, and understand that people feel strongly about the facilities they are used to using.
“This is why we have ensured we are undertaking an extremely comprehensive programme consulting a wide range of different groups with different needs and aspirations.
“The consultation engages not just users but also non-users, as we realise that the current service is not meeting their needs. The service moving forward must be designed to better meet the needs of the majority of our residents and this may mean change. The process has been carefully put together and well-promoted in order to encourage as many people as possible to give us their opinion. Nothing has been decided.
“We appreciate the group’s views and the time they have taken to put together their submission, and will of course consider these as part of the consultation.”