Cllr Simon Wheale: Council Underspend could pay to keep pools open

Simon is Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Manchester City Council

Simon is Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Manchester City Council

I have written previously about how Labour in Manchester is making the wrong choices for Manchester.

Unlike nearby Labour Salford, they have turned down £1.5m in grant to freeze the Council Tax, and raised it by a whopping 3,7%. They have reserves of £150million. They are saving just £1.8m trying to close front line services but can still afford to subsidise free drinks for  football stars at an Alicia Keys gig.

I and my colleagues Victor Chamberlain, James Hennigan and Mark Clayton met with the City Treasurer earlier this week to discuss the budget.

In the papers, I noticed that the Council had not spent £1.7m of new Government money for healthy lifestyles in Manchester. This money could save Withington Baths and Leisure Centre, Chorlton Baths and Levenshulme Baths if a plan is put in place to support mass participation in swimming using the extra funding coming into the City Council.

This would be a win-win plan. It would keep the baths open and provide a  physical activity plans for Manchester residents could now be supported from significantly increased Public health grants in the next two financial years.

This funding would go up from £36Million to £40Million from April this year and will then go up further to £44Million from April 2014.

It would be daft for the Council to miss the opportunity provided by this additional money, some of which could be used promote swimming and gym use as good exercise for Manchester residents, if that would also help to secure the future of baths and leisure centres like Withington, Chorlton and Levenshulme.

The City Treasurer confirmed this money could be used to keep these pools open.

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