May defends town pool plan

MORE questions have been raised over the decision by Angus Council to build a new £10 million swimming pool in Montrose.

An Angus councillor has brought forward concerns over building a new facility when figures revealed that no leisure facilities run by the council have made a profit over the past three years.

Recent figures show that some facilities have been making a loss of several hundred thousand pounds each year with a combined loss for 2009/10 of 2.5 million.

Figures shows that the current swimming pool facility in Montrose lost almost 250,000 during the last financial year.

These deficits which have been recorded at sites throughout the county come as local authorities the length and breadth of Scotland prepare to face massive budget cuts.

Arbroath councillor SNP member Donald Morrison wants the local authority to explain why it has authorised the building of a new pool facility in the face of a bleak financial outlook of existing facilities.

Mr Morrison said: "If no facility is currently making a profit, how can they justify spending 10 million?

"How do they propose to pay this back?"

Mr Morrison's colleagues have been outwardly critical of the project since it began.

They also claim that the council did not disclose that an additional 27,000 would be needed to cover the preparation works.

The administration over the estimated 225,000 cost needed to decant services from the sports centres to elsewhere in the town has also been attacked.

Mr Morrison also said that handing over control of the facilities to a trust to make them more profitable "may be an avenue that could be looked at" in the future.

Currently, Angus Council is one of only a handful of local authorities which have not already done so.

Mr Morrison said: "We need to be looking at all ideas here."

Council leader Bob Myles, head of the Angus Alliance coalition, has not ruled out establishing a trust to improve the financial performance of the swimming pools and sports centres across Angus.

He has stressed, however, that there are no immediate plans to take this action.

But Montrose councillor David May has criticised Mr Morrison's comments.

He said: "Is the SNP councillor suggesting that if leisure facilities are making a loss we should put up their prices of the facilities or close them as this is implicit in his comments.

"At a time when we are concerned about the health of Angus residents we should be encouraging them to use the facilities and not the opposite.

"It seems to be the case from the press that some SNP councillors seem to be opposed to a replacement pool for Montrose.

"Given the fact that it has to be replaced, or in the next few years be closed, would they prefer it to be closed altogether?

"I know that one SNP councillor suggested at a council meeting that, instead of replacing the pool in Montrose, a pool should be built in a more central location.

"I was opposed to that at the meeting as I believe each burgh should have a pool.

"Is Councillor Morrison, as well his SNP colleagues, suggesting that Montrose should not have their pool replaced?

"Indeed, as the current facility will have to be closed in a few years, Montrose would have no pool at all."