Campaign launched as popular swimming pool close to Sheffield 'could shut'

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A petition has been set up to try and save a swimming pool in Todwick which is in danger due to rising bills - but Alexander Stafford MP claims the cash is there and accuses Labour of “political opportunism”.

Parents, teachers and local politicians alike try and save Todwick Primary’s swimming pool after it was revealed that it could shut.

Jake Richards, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Rother Valley, set up a petition and told the Local Democracy Service that the “people are angry”.

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He said: “The reason behind (the closure) is economic. Most schools are facing budgetary pressures and we’ve got data that tells us they (Todwick Primary) are facing about £40k cuts so they can’t keep it open.

Todwick Primary SchoolTodwick Primary School
Todwick Primary School

“I’m working together with a group of residents, including parents with young children who use the pool. What we’ve done so far is we’ve written to the Education Secretary asking for help and there’s apparently a pot of money for swimming pools - because swimming pools are more in danger due to energy bills rising.

“We’re realistic, I don’t think the government will come and save this. What we’re doing is to try and look at alternative ways to keep it open.

“Now, whether that is via donation or looking at how we can make the pool more economically sustainable.

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“I’m surprised how many people have expressed their desire to keep this open. We’ve got over 1000 signatures (on the appeal). People are angry about it.”

When told Rother Valley MP Alexander Stafford had said extra money - more than £2m - was available, Mr Richards said it was a “classic manoeuvre”.

He said: “What’s happened is, and this is a classic manoeuvre, the Tories have cut education spending in real terms for the last 13 years and then they offer a very small amount and they expect everyone to be very grateful.

“This is the same (as) with the Levelling up funds. They cut investments in Rotherham by £300m and they celebrate a miniscule amount. It is ridiculous to suggest to the parents and the teachers that school funding in the Rother Valley, and indeed across the UK, is sufficient at the moment.

“I don’t think anyone really believes it.”

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Alexander Stafford said the additional £2.6m made available is to “top up budgets of every state funded primary and secondary school in Rother Valley”.

He told the Local Democracy Service: “I would like the pool to be saved as it is clear that a large number of people in the community wish to preserve the asset.

“However, for this to be reality the real reasons – not the fantasy stated by Labour – need to be addressed to ensure we can come up with a workable plan to secure its future. This is what I am doing, alongside other elected representatives in Todwick.

“The Labour petition is political opportunism started by someone who says he wants to save “our” pool, but has never even visited the school, never mind the actual pool.

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“There is actually a level of disgust among some people in Todwick that the Labour Party is trying to force the hand of the school without having a proper grasp or understanding of the reasons. It is political opportunism at its worse.”

He said the headteacher at Todwick Primary would be able to choose how to invest the money.

Mr Stafford said: “It should not be for any politician to tell them how best to spend it.”

When asked if he accepted that the last "14 years of cuts" could jeopardise the existence of the swimming pool, he added: “As this is a factually incorrect statement then no”.

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He said: “The headteacher told me that there are three reasons why they wish to close the pool.

“One is costs – not just increased energy costs, but also the increased maintenance costs of the 50-year-old building and a decision to spend the school’s capital budget on other priorities.

“Second issue is safe staffing levels required for lessons and no longer being able to rely on parent volunteers due to safeguarding requirements.

“And the third is that the pool no longer meets the needs of the school swimming curriculum – some children from the school are already sent to Aston pool for some lessons, as the length of the school pool (less than 10m) and the depth (waist level) is not adequate for their needs.”

RMBC was approached for a statement.