Lido could be axed as part of council spending cutsBy Pete Castle
January 24, 2011
ALDERSHOT’S historic lido could be closed as part of council plans to cut £1million of public services next year.
The outdoor swimming complex is thought to be one of the services to the public that might face the axe in Aldershot and Farnborough as Rushmoor Borough Council struggles to cut £2.4m from its budget in April.
The proposal is understood to be one of those being considered behind closed doors by councillors.
Other plans that may be considered could include closing public toilets, charging people more for car parking and hiking up fees for using the council-run crematorium, the News & Mail understands.
Popular council-run family events, such as the Green and Global Fun Day at the Princes Hall and Aldershot’s Victoria Day celebrations, could also be cut or scaled down, the council’s finance director said.
The first in a series of secret meetings was held on Monday this week as councillors from all parties sat down to discuss their public service priorities.
While members of the public were not allowed access to the discussion, it is understood that the elected politicians were given around 40 options for cuts, which they were asked to rank in preference.
However, the council’s director of finance Peter Gardner admitted that even if all of the proposals for service cuts were agreed by the politicians, they would still need to find more savings later in the year to make ends meet.
Mr Gardner, Rushmoor’s second highest-ranking civil servant, said that the unprecedented cut to the council’s budget over the next three years meant that more cuts would be necessary.
He added that the task was ‘easily the most challenging’ of his 21 years in charge of the borough’s finances, with the central government grant to Rushmoor being slashed by almost a quarter, from £7m to £5.3m, in one year.
The cut is the worst of any district council in Surrey or Hampshire.
With other losses in income – particularly a drop in interest payments on the £40m the council has in the bank from selling off its council houses in 1995 – the council would have to find £2.4m in cuts this year, £3.2m the following year and £3.9m the year after.
Mr Gardner said that £1.4m of savings had been found that would not directly effect frontline services through a pay freeze, staff redundancies, and other savings.
That left another £1m of cuts to be found for 2011/12, with more cuts necessary for the following two years.
“We are looking at every area. There is not a single service that has not been considered,” he said.
Peter Moyle, leader of the Conservative-run council, denied that the decisions on cuts were being made behind closed doors, pointing out that this week’s ‘workshops’ were open to councillors from all parties.
Councillors are due to meet privately again this Monday to further discuss their options, before a final range of cuts are considered in public at the council’s cabinet committee meeting on February 1.
The threat to the lido is not the first it has faced in its 80-year history. The pool, which was used as one of the venues for the 1948 Olympic Games, has consistently run at a loss, costing taxpayers almost a quarter of a million pounds last year after the dismal summer weather in 2009 meant visitor numbers were down.
Although it costs less than a third of both the Aldershot indoor pools and Farnborough leisure centre, it is thought that the cost is considered high for a facility that is only open for a few months each year, despite being enjoyed by up to 50,000 visitors.