Doomed Sheffield centre’s lifeline

Stocksbridge Leisure centre faces closure
Stocksbridge Leisure centre faces closure
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Campaigners fighting to save Stocksbridge Leisure Centre have been thrown a lifeline by Sheffield Council, which has offered funding to keep one pool open.

The people of Stocksbridge would have to raise half the cost of an £180,000 annual subsidy to keep the main pool going - but the rest of the centre would be mothballed.

The option is among money-saving ideas - revealed in secret emails seen by The Star - put forward by Sheffield In ternational Venues to keep the centre open. Other proposals include retaining both the main pool and teaching pool for £200,000, or the entire centre for £302,000 a year.

Council leader Julie Dore said the 50-50 funding idea could be acceptable.

“If the 4SLC campaign group and Stocksbridge Town Council was willing to provide half the funding, it would be something the city council is prepared to consider,” she said.

“But if the cost of running the whole of Stocksbridge Leisure Centre was £302,000 a year, it’s something we would not be able to afford. We have another £50 million of cuts to come next year and have to make substantial savings.”

When the closure proposals were announced in January, Sheffield Council’s director of culture and environment Paul Billington decided against revealing the possible savings to ‘keep it simple’.

The council reported the level of subsidy needed was £400,000. Officers also failed to disclose that visitor numbers had started to rise after years of decline.

Coun Dore added: “We are only looking to subsidise pools by a maximum of around £100,000 a year – and will be looking to drive that cost down in future years.

“The town council could look at raising the money though a precept. There are a substantial number of people who come from Penistone to use the centre - maybe councils in that area could also contribute, but it would be up to the town council to ask.”

Coun Dore also accused people worried the centre could be damaged by vandalism or arson of ‘scaremongering’.

She said: “If the people of Stocksbridge value this facility why would someone do something like that? The idea is scaremongering.”

Emma Gregory, chairman of 4SLC, said: “We asked Sheffield Council previously how much it would cost to keep one or both pools open, but never received any formal information. We need the council to make these offers to us directly.”

Coun Alison Brelsford, who represents Stocksbridge on Sheffield Council, said: “It is clear now that key information was withheld and that local people were misled. Labour council bosses never had any intention of listening to the concerns of the Stocksbridge community.”

Mr Billington said: “There is an important working relationship as SIV run several of our flagship and community facilities on our behalf, and we do need to discuss a whole range of issues that affect or would affect the operation of a facility they manage.”