The Liberal Democrats running Woking Borough Council have got a plan to keep Pool in the Park open.
The Council’s Executive will debate and decide on the plans at its meeting on Thursday 14th December.
The Council, in consultation with local residents, is in the final stages of drafting a detailed agreement to make Woking’s main swimming pool financially sustainable and self-funding by increasing charges to use it.
The possibility of a phased closure of Pool in the Park was the most commented-on issue in the already record-breaking public consultation exercise run by the Council.
Will Forster, Deputy Leader of Woking Borough Council and Parliamentary Candidate for Woking said, “I grew up in Woking and learnt to swim in that pool. When the Council launched the consultation, I said I had a huge problem with the prospect of closing the Pool in the Park. My Lib Dem colleagues and Council staff did not want to close the Pool in the Park either.”
“Sadly, thanks to the Council’s effective bankruptcy which we inherited from the former Conservative administration and Parliament stating that services like swimming pools are non-essential, the Pool in the Park was at real risk. This plan involves financial realism but is the first serious proposal in many years to put Pool in the Park on a solid footing.”
Woking Council can no longer to afford to continue to subsidise the Pool in the Park, as the charges people pay to use the swimming pool do not cover the full running costs.
However, after considerable work by the residents' campaign group Woking Pool CATs and Council colleagues, the Council will soon have a viable plan to keep Pool in the Park open.
Benchmarking has shown that Woking’s current charges are low in comparison to neighbouring Councils. Following the public backing of increased charges in the recent consultation, the Council is finalising how much charges to use the Pool in the Park will increase in order to keep it open.
Notably, the plan is not open-ended in its future support for the pool. For example, if the income drops as a result of higher charges, the Council might have to consider closure at a later date, but this would also allow time for other options including community ownership to be considered.
Will Forster added, “Although there is still a lot of work to do to ensure the detailed plan is ready to be approved by the Council at its budget meeting on 8th February, I want to pay tribute and say a huge thank you to those that helped get us to this point: I am especially thankfully to the residents who gave up their time and formed the Woking Pool CAT - and the Council’s Portfolio Holder Leisure, Councillor Ellen Nicholson, who has gone above and beyond to seek a solution.”
“By working together, we are on the way to securing the future of one of Borough’s vital assets. It’s a place where families have fun, it’s where we learn how to stay safe in the water and it’s where people with limited mobility can exercise - Woking’s Pool in the Park.”