AN emotional and heated meeting about the future of Bramley’s historic swimming baths ended with locals voting to put together a plan for community ownership.
There was anger and frustration that the situation had been forced on the community by the Government’s cuts programme.
Leeds faces a £90 million budget cut – and the century-old Grade II listed building could be one of the casualties.
The meeting was told the baths are costing the council almost £250,000 per year to run, but do not make a profit.
Campaigners recently won £38,000 in funding to help the baths run on reduced hours until March next year, but its long-term future is still in doubt.
More than 100 people packed into the tiny Bramley Community Centre to hear and debate ideas for a possible community takeover or social enterprise bid.
The crunch meeting was called by West Leeds MP Rachel Reeves and Bramley councillor Ted Hanley. Council bosses have asked for ‘expressions of interest’ to be submitted ahead of a meeting of the authority’s decision-making executive board this week.
Mark Law, manager of Bramley’s Barca community charity, is helping put together a list of possible options which a new steering group will now consider. The success of similar projects in other parts of the country will be examined as part of the process.
Helen Fitton has four children, 18-month old twins, a four year old and six year old, who are all learning to swim at the baths,
“I have four children and they all need to learn to swim,” she told the meeting.
“The baths was built to save the lives of kids who were drowning in the canals, and now we could lose it. It’s an iconic building. It’s such a shame. All the losses [from the cuts] seem to be in the most deprived areas.
“We get told we are obese and have health problems – so they take the baths away!
“I just can’t understand why there’s no money,” she said.
Pensioner Pauline Ward said she had been swimming at the baths since she was a baby, and was even a junior swimming champion aged 10.
“I feel so passionately about Bramley Baths,” she told the meeting. It’s always the ordinary people in the street who get punished.
“Why don’t they cut the men at the top, with all their expenses?
“I think it’s a disgrace that something so lovely like Bramley Baths is at risk.”