Major Fylde attractions earmarked for closure

MUCH-loved Fylde landmarks were today placed on a shock council closure hitlist.

Lowther Pavilion and leisure facilities at Fairhaven Lake join Kirkham and St Annes swimming pools under the threat of being axed because they are "luxuries" cash-strapped Fylde Council cannot afford.

Council Leader John Coombes today said tough decisions would have to be made as the authority attempts to plug a 1m-plus budget deficit.

But angry residents today wasted little time in blasting the council for even considering such measures ahead of next month's annual budget decision.

Coun Coombes says drastic cuts have been forced on the authority by 600,000 cuts in government funding combined with an expected 300,000 bill for free bus travel for the over 60s.

He said: "Luxury items are the first ones to go when times are hard. We're looking at them rather than the essential ones we need.

"This is not down to bad management, it's external influences. What do people think will make the biggest impact if we stopped it?

"There is no more savings to be squeezed out of the council. We're having to stop services.

"We have to empty the bins, sweep the streets and pay for bus travel, but there is a whole raft of things we don't have to do."

The swimming pools in Kirkham and St Annes cost the authority 100,000-a-year to maintain and 650,000 to keep open as they run at a loss.

Ridiculous

Running Lytham's Lowther Pavilion - which is the only theatre in Fylde - costs the council 73,000.

It is a popular centre for amateur dramatic productions, while Fairhaven Lake's council-run facilities include two bowling greens, skate park and boats.

Karen Gray, who has performed at the theatre with Lytham Operatic players, said: "It's absolutely ridiculous.

"Lytham and St Annes are going to become ghost towns before too long.

"What is going to happen to some of the societies that perform there."

Di Prutton, of the Lytham-based Anonymous Players amateur dramatics society, said: "As soon as you lose a central facility you are likely to reduce the sort of productions put on in quite a significant way.

"Not every production for every society is going to result in a return for the box office."

St Annes and Kirkham baths were saved from the axe two years ago after a Gazette campaign saw more than 3,000 people sign petitions calling for them to be kept open.

Coun Coombes said it would cost every household in St Annes an extra 30 in council tax to keep the town's pool open.

Eric Pass, 63, who swims at St Annes pool every day, added: "Every year they do the same.

"The council always say they have no money and have to tighten their belts. The first thing that comes up is the pools.

Revamp

"I feel sorry for the staff that work there."

A crunch budget meeting, where the potential cuts will be discussed, will be held at St Annes town hall on Friday, February 15.

The axe may fall on the services as the council prepares to spend 5m on a revamp of their St Annes headquarters, funded by the sale of council assets.

Fylde MP Michael Jack has pointed the finger at the Government for slashing funding to smaller authorities.

He said: "It's a reflection on the fact the Government has turned the screws on local authorities.

"The next financial year has given Fylde just one per cent extra money when inflation is running at anything between two and four per cent.