Anger as Fylde pool axed (audio)

ANGER erupted as the axe fell on St Annes swimming pool.

Police were placed on standby amid bitter scenes as Fylde Council voted to close the much-loved sports facility from this summer.

There was a last minute reprieve for Kirkham Baths which was saved - for one year at least - after a number of cuts, a rise in car park charges and hike in admission fees were agreed.

To hear audio from last night's meeting click here

Both pools were earmarked for closure as council chiefs proposed drastic cuts in a bid to plug a 1m hole in the authority's budget.

But there were howls of derision as the closure order was issued on St Annes - just 48 hours after 3,000 local residents marched through the town in a bid to save it.

Baths gone but parking fees go up

Pools campaigner Eric Pass, who uses the St Annes pool every day, said: "I think it's dreadful.

Register for free and leave your comment below

"I'm very very disappointed. The decision to close St Annes was taken before the meeting even started."

Outraged protesters shouted down ruling Tory councillors throughout last night's stormy five-hour budget meeting at Fylde Rugby Club.

Council leader John Coombes survived a vote of no confidence from opposition members while the debate was, at one stage, halted for 10 minutes as tempers reached boiling point.

Fylde Mayor Coun John Prestwich said he was "saddened" by the angry scenes. When the meeting reconvened Chief Executive Phil Woodward advised the public police officers were on hand to maintain order.

Joanne Young, 50, from Ansdell, who has been teaching swimming at St Annes for 32 years, stormed out of the meeting after unleashing a verbal attack on council leaders.

She had earlier presented a petition signed by more than 4,500 people calling for both baths to be saved.

"I'm absolutely furious. It's ridiculous," she said.

"There are 10 school classes and the disabled swimmers who go to St Annes. They can't all go to Kirkham because they already have a busy schedule there.

"It doesn't bear thinking about what will happen. The people making these decisions don't use the swimming pools."

St Annes Pool will now close on July 31.

Around 100 protesters, ranging from children to pensioners with banners and signs, chanted "Save Our Pools" outside the meeting, while another 100 crammed into the public gallery.

Tempers flared after a series of block votes from the ruling Tory councillors and opposition members led to a stalemate.

Opposition members put forward five amendments which would have saved both pools, but all were voted down as council finance officers said they were "not robust enough".

Opposition councillors also introduced two amendments calling for the council's town hall project - which will cost between 5m and 7m to revamp - to be scrapped but we again voted down by ruling Tory members. Leading councillors say government legislation won't allow them to use the "capital" funds to fund the running of the two pools.

An amendment that councillors should accept a substantial cut in their expenses to 1,125 each a year was also defeated.

Coun Liz Oades, leader of the opposition and Mayor of Kirkham, said: "If this is what passes for democracy then God help it.

"What has happened here tonight has been disgraceful. I feel very sad for the people of St Annes."

Kirkham coun, Elaine Silverwood, said: "I think it was a done deal before we walked through the door.

"We have done our best to try and save St Annes. We feel the finance officer has let us down by rejecting our proposals."

Closing St Annes will save cash-strapped Fylde Council 204,000 this year.

The council has now implemented a 4.99 per cent council tax rise for the coming year - the maximum it can under Government rules.

Coun Coombes, who has promised a feasibility study on building a new pool in the borough, said: "What this decision has done is put the council's priorities in sharp focus.

"The situation was not sustainable. We could do without a situation like this, but we have got to take the difficult decisions.

"One facility has been retained for school swimming. People still need to use it."

Last night's meeting followed two marches at the weekend - in both St Annes and Kirkham - where 6,000 Fylde residents took to the streets to save the pools.