Lifeline hope for swimming pool

KIRKHAM'S threatened swimming bath could be handed an 11th hour lifeline.

The pool – set for the axe alongside St Annes pool as Fylde Council deals with its financial crisis – could be handed over to a charitable trust, supporters believe.

The cash-strapped council wants to save 118,000 over the next 12 months by closing the baths, savings which would increase to 144,000 in 2009.

Raymond Green, chairman of the Friends of the Baths, believes it is "lunacy" to consider closing the pool, used by 16 schools across rural Fylde.

He said: "Pools can't be judged on making a profit, they are a facility for the community.

"If the pools were taken away there would be a huge hole in the school day because pupils will be travelling all over the place to swim.

"It is the second crisis in the last 18 months brought about by the council's finances. The poor people who work at the baths don't know what is happening from one year to the next."

A march to save the baths has been organised at 10am on Saturday, March 1, from Market Square in Kirkham into Wesham.

It follows plans for another march at 11am on the same day along the Promenade to St Annes pool.

Barbara MacKenzie, chairman of St Annes Town Council, said: "I would urge as many people as possible to take part to show the strength of feeling about the closure of the pool.

"Having realised there was a danger of both pools being closed the council should have begun working on some sort of business plan.

"How can we be a tourist resort when we are cutting services?"

But Coun Simon Renwick, portfolio holder for culture and tourism, says money will have to be found in the budget to save the pools in the short term before they could be handed over to a charitable trust.

Coun Renwick, who voted against the council's ruling cabinet on a measure to close the pools, said: "The plan has to be robust, long-term and practical.

"I think Mr Green has got some very good ideas. I want to save the baths as much as he does."

Council bosses have blamed the budget crisis on external pressures caused by 600,000 cuts in government funding combined with an expected 300,000 bill for free bus travel for the over 60s.

Opposition members have blamed a 609,000 overspend in the council's waste department for the cash crisis.

The cuts are set to be finalised at a meeting of the full council to be held at Fylde Rugby Club at 5pm on Monday, March 3.