So the council welcome in the new year with news that ‘after work’ evening swimmers are to be limited to only 1 hour 15 minutes of pool time during the week after 6pm.
That marks a huge reduction on previous availability and a big change in policy where evening swims have been readily offered since the pool was first opened in 1971.
What is the basis for this sudden decision?
The council has wheeled out their anonymous ‘spokesman’ to enlighten us all. They had plenty of time to prepare for this – the council would have known this move was bound to spark a negative and hostile reaction.
The issue is whether his carefully prepared grounds hold any water?
For starters, there is some good news. He does not say that the closure is due to lack of money or under utilisation of Tynemouth pool during evenings.
First of all, however, he tells us that the council is committed to help people get fit. That’s a slogan – not a reason. Every borough’s PR department will trumpet that one regardless of its truth or merit.
It’s just a mantra which if repeated enough times enables the council to delude itself (but no one else) into believing in it while it cuts access.
Actions (as here) speak louder than words. So we can dismiss this ground.
Number two reason relates to giving access to learning classes and the local swimming club.
Both are important – but both (until now) have been accomodated and co-existed with the general public through either a few blocked sessions or booming of the pool.
A brief check of the pool programme website reveals anyway that there are currently no lessons after 5.30pm for learners.
Prior to the new year a workable and generally satisfactory regime has provided access to all groups.
So why has that suddenly changed with a consequence that one so called user group – the general public – has been adversely affected?
If the demand for Tynemouth is that great, the council should be extending the pre-new year opening hours further and not cutting them.
Reason three is that you can go somewhere else for a swim. Why then should the local residents do so when they have had a more accessible pool at Tynemouth since 1971?
The spokesman helpfully explains that the council has provided ‘state of the art’ facilities elsewhere and which are often ‘under occupied even during peak hours’.
This looks like the crux of his argument – we have provided lots of space elsewhere, so go and use that instead.
The council, however, may wish to reflect that over £18m has recently been spent on two new pool-based facilities (incorporating 25 metre pools) at Wallsend and Killingworth.
This was a huge commitment in financially straightened times and a substantial increase in pool metreage for the borough.
Is the conclusion to be drawn now that the decision to build two brand new pools was at best ill judged (and worst financially reckless) if the demand at peak times for all four borough pools was in reality never there?
If that is so then it raises even more questions than answers, as well as issues of accountability for that policy.
It hardly needs stating that the cost of keeping one pool open for the general public for extended hours is negligible compared to the cost of one brand new pool.
Having run through the grounds presented – it seems that they lack any credibility at all.
At best the council want to shuffle numbers around for their own convenience and not for the residents.
The decision to close access to working residents (council tax payers in the main) smacks of capriciousness on the council’s part.
It was a decision taken apparently with no consultation with the local people who enjoy the facility.
It would be wise for this to be reconsidered immediately as it cannot be right to substantially curtail access and enjoyment to local residents without very good cause.