A SWIMMING pool in Birkenhead run under a similar 'community transfer' system the council is encouraging for two other leisure centres on Wirral has gone into liquidation.
Shocked staff At Byrne Avenue baths were told at 8.30pm on Sunday not to come to work on Monday - and users of the centre turned up the next day to find a notice pinned to the locked doors. Thirteen employees lost their jobs.
The centre was the subject of 'community transfer' out of local authority control in 1996 and has been run by a charitable trust ever since, with an annual £20,000 grant from Wirral Council.
'Community transfer' is the same fate that awaits Leasowe Reaction Centre, which is set to be cut free from council control from as early as next month, and also Guinea Gap baths in Seacombe, which faces a further 'review' of its future in two years’ time.
Both, along with Grange Road West Sports Centre in Birkenhead, were part of the council’s controversial 'strategic asset review' which wants to cut funding to the leisure centres, two museums, eleven libraries and the Pacific Road Arts Centre.
On Byrne Avenue, Leasowe Conservative councillor Ian Lewis said: “Last year, we were told that the council was in discussion with the members of the trust to seek a solution to the problem of maintaining the building.
“Is this a taste of things to come?
“A much-loved local amenity is threatened with closure by the council, pleading poverty, but then transferred to the community, at which point the council distances itself from the whole thing.”
Byrne Avenue supervisor Georgina Moffat told the Globe: “It’s the kids I feel sorry for. They will now have nowhere to go and parents have paid up front for lessons.
“We are all gutted. It’s just awful the way it has been done, both to the staff and public.”
Questions had been raised in an area forum last year over issues of maintenance of the Victorian building which was deemed to be in a poor state of repair.
The council said then: “It has been the trust’s responsibility to maintain and run the building, but it seems that they have not raised enough revenue to achieve this.”
Cllr Lewis added: “Clearly, as far as the council is concerned, it’s a case of ‘not me Guv’.
“If the council is so convinced that transferring leisure centres and community centres to the community is the right way forward, why hasn’t it worked for Byrne Avenue Baths?
“Many of the amenities that are on the strategic asset review list to go have similar issues to Byrne Avenue Baths – historic buildings with high maintenance costs and public safety issues.
“I think we need the council to be up front and say what went wrong with the ‘community asset transfer’ of Byrne Avenue Baths and can they guarantee this won’t be the first of many closures behind the mask of so-called ‘community ownership’.”