Dear ##### #######,
I believe that you have gone to the trouble to sign a recent petition to protest against a threat to close Tunstall Swimming Pool, so let me first thank you for taking the time and trouble to put your name to this petition.
Tunstall pool is something that is dear in the hearts of most people from the Tunstall area. I fondly remember 50 years ago, walking crocodile fashion with my class mates, from the old Highgate School to the pool, for our weekly swimming lesson. It also amazes me to find so many pensioners who tell me that they learnt to swim there and still have affectionate feelings for the pool.
Even today, it is still teaching our children to swim, provides fun recreation for the family and helps to keep our elderly fit and active. No wonder people are alarmed at the thought of the council closing.
As your ward councillor and especially as the pool is in our area I am taking the time to write to you to try and give you a clearer picture of what is happening and to inform you where I stand on the issue.
Let me start off by saying that there has never been a proposal to close Tunstall Pool. It has been flagged up as part of the council's medium to long term strategy as an item for us to consider.
The reason for this is simple. The council is always looking at ways to save money, the government demand that we do this and so do the residents of the city. Everybody wants a first rate service provided for as cheaply as possible. Low council tax, quality the front line services. We are trying to make savings of £15 million this year, and know that whatever political party will be in government in May, they are faced with a £200 billion debt and in order to start to recoup this debt, we are wisely predicting that we are going to be faced with savage cuts in the cities funding so it is prudent that we look at ways to make savings now.
Swimming Pools is not one of the services that we have to provide, unlike say providing schools or emptying bins, indeed many councils have no municipal swimming pools at all. Tunstall Pool costs you, the council tax payer, money each year for it to stay open. So it is only right that we should look at it in the long term and to ask you your thoughts on if it should be kept or not. After all, we work for you; you should have some input in what services we provide and what priority to put on them.
It is hard to put a price on teaching someone to swim, what savings would be made by stopping one person drowning; equally it is difficult to put a price on keeping people fit and healthy and active for longer.
Over the next year or two we will get a cost for any work that might need doing to the building in the future, look at how we can maximise income from the pool, how we can attract more users to it and what savings we can make. When we have these figures then you can help us to decide on its future. It we can't get it to break even and you still want it to stay open, then it may mean making savings elsewhere or increasing the council tax. But it should be for the public to help us councillors make that decision.
I personally believe that the added benefits that the city gets from having this facility far outweigh a small cost in keeping the pool open.
There would also be a substantial cost in decommissioning the pool, mothballing it and keeping the building secure if it was decided it should be closed, which also needs to be considered.
I have talked to many of the users of the pool and have found no one who would not be prepared to pay say an extra £1 per visit, if that would ensure that the pool became profitable and could remain open. I don't know the legality of charging, after all the government want all children and pensioners to swim for free, but it is something that can be looked at over the next year.
Many people have said that they would put into a donation box, like they have at the Potteries Museum, if it would help to keep the pool open.
Tunstall Pool is arguably the oldest surviving, working Victorian Municiple swimming pool in the country. Ask,
- Why is it not marketed as such?
- Where is it in the Cities Tourist Guides?
- We have ever increasing numbers of tourists who come to Stoke-on-Trent every year; would they not want to visit something as unique as Tunstall Pool? I am certain if they knew about it many would, and pay.
This year is the 100 year celebration of the federation of the six towns of the Potteries coming together to form a Federation. What part could a 100 + year old swimming pool play in those celebrations.
I am proposing to try and organise a 'Victorian Swimming Gala' later this year in the pool, complete with flags, bunting and people and swimmers in period costume. I believe that this, as well as being a fun thing to do, would generate an enormous amount of publicity for the pool. It might even make the TV news. What better way to bring our unique swimming pool to the attention of the media. I hope you will add your support to this proposed event, get involved and make it happen.
In conclusion, I believe that Tunstall Pool has too much going for it for the council to want to close it just to save what would amount to a pittance hi the scheme of things, and that the cost of what we could lose by closing it, not only in money but also in the 'added value' that we get makes it somewhat of a nonsense.
Unless the pool was going to be replaced with a bigger and better pool or if it was to be part of a much larger scheme that would bring even greater benefits to Tunstall, I will be fighting to keep it open.
We have just over a year, to do all the calculations, look at all the pro's and con's, cogitate, argue, consider, deliberate and convince everybody that Tunstall Pool should continue to do what it has done for the past 100 years. That is to provide a safe environment for our children to learn to swim, a fun place for families to enjoy and a good recreation that helps keep our elder citizens fit and healthy. As well as being an important historical building in the centre of Tunstall.
Not a hard job.
With compliments, I remain Yours faithfully
Councillor Lee Wanger