Former bosses at Wigan swimming pool criticise £100k council spending on renovation

A decision by council bosses to spend £100k on improvement works for a community swimming pool has been criticised by the people who used to run it.

Friday, 7th December 2018, 3:36 pm
Updated Friday, 7th December 2018, 4:50 pm
Former Hindley Phoenix chairman Jim Ellis

Hindley Phoenix, a community group that had been running the facility since 2013, disbanded earlier this year and has gone into liquidation.

The council has since handed over responsibility to Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles (IHL), a charitable trust with long-term links with the town hall.

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The pool has been closed since September and a financial report tabled for a recent meeting of the authority’s cabinet reveals £100k of capital spending has been earmarked.

Former chairman of Hindley Phoenix, Jim Ellis, said the timing is ‘bizarre’, however, as the works would have been of benefit earlier in the year when the community group was still afloat.

Mr Ellis, who said he has invested thousands of his own funds into the pool, the former independent representative for Hindley, said: “We asked for help but the town hall wouldn’t entertain it.

“They could have supported us but because it was me, that was it, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a lot of money.”

The council would not be drawn on Mr Ellis’s claims but said ‘long-term investment’ in the pool was required to keep it open.

Although IHL is the new operator, the town hall remains the landlord of the Borsdane Avenue facility and is therefore obliged to fund any refurbishment costs, a spokesperson said.

Hindley Phoenix took over the pool in 2013 under the council’s Deal initiative which saw community organisations run former council services in the wake of local government budget cuts.

Professor Kate Ardern, director of public health, said: “We offered to contribute to the work to invest in the building and improve its facilities for residents.

“There are a number of necessary improvements needed to certain mechanical systems including the pool heating system and the pool plant room – responsible for the water quality.

“We are working hard to get the building open as soon as possible but must ensure it is safe to do so and at a standard which residents expect. We thank residents for their patience and will update them further as soon as we can.”

A re-opening date for the pool is yet to be announced but IHL has previously said it is ‘extremely important’ it opens ‘as quickly as possible.’

Prof Ardern added: “It was not only short-term repairs that were needed but a long-term investment plan which would ensure the pool was sustainable and kept open to residents.”