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Central Baths update

Wolverhampton City Council is working with 2 of the country's leading sporting organisations as it looks to try and save Central Baths from closure.

The facility in Bath Avenue is currently making a significant loss and requires a subsidy to the tune of £316,000 a year from the city council to keep it going.

Councillors, who are battling to address a £98 million budget shortfall caused by Government cuts, have warned that Central Baths may have to close if visitor numbers and income do not increase.

The council is committed to trying to find a solution and a new senior management structure has been put in place to run the city's leisure centres as commercial enterprises.

The developments have led to praise from the petitioners who are campaigning to save Central Baths from closure.

One of the first things that has been done has been to start work with the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) and expand on talks with Sport England which first commenced over the summer to look at ways of attracting more users to Central Baths.

The ASA was founded in 1869 and is the national governing body for swimming, diving, water polo, open water, and synchronised swimming.

Sport England is another national organisation that works to increase the number of people who play sport regularly by strategically investing public and National Lottery funding. Sport England supports its investments by providing advice, expertise and insight to ensure they have the desired impact.

Both organisations have already suggested ways to improve what is offered at Central Baths and the ASA is supporting the production of a new business plan for the facility - with the aim of dramatically increasing user numbers and income generating potential.

Visits are also taking place to other towns and cities to see what lessons can be learnt to improve what is on offer at Central Baths.

Councillor Elias Mattu, the city council's Cabinet Member for Leisure, said: "We are delighted to be working with 2 respected organisations like the ASA and Sport England to assist us in our aim of making Central Baths a thriving facility. I initiated talks with Sport England over the summer and invited them in to tour our leisure centres.

"Their expertise, together with a new senior management structure for leisure centres and a new commercial focus, will see innovative ideas developed to try and save Central Baths.

"Nobody wants Central Baths to close and we will do everything in our power to find a solution. But we must be realistic - the task to reduce the subsidy for Central Baths is a big one.

"Government cuts are forcing us to cut services and if we can't get Central Baths to pay for itself, then difficult decisions will have to be taken. I want to reassure the people of Wolverhampton that I will leave no stone unturned to try and save this facility."

Commercial managers from the council have also met with the people leading the campaign to keep Central Baths open.

Their concerns and ideas were listened to and the council was able to offer reassurance that significant steps were being taken by the authority to try and make Central Baths reach a position where it could pay for its self.

Councillor Mattu said: "We know feelings are running very high about Central Baths and we want an open dialogue with the campaigners. We want to talk to them and listen to them and let them know that we will do all we can to find an alternative to closure if that is possible."

Carol Bailey, who is a regular user of Central Baths and is leading the campaign to keep them open, was one of the people who met with the council.

Carol said: "The petitioners are very encouraged by the obvious commitment - in both time and resources - of senior council staff and the very active participation and expertise of the ASA in helping frame a business plan to save the baths."

  • released: Monday 16 December, 2013