The closure of Moorways Swimming Pool has prompted much public annoyance throughout the City, and is the subject of a high profile campaign and petition to the Council. The fact that Derby’s public swimming provision has been severely depleted is the butt of many jokes and local derision. But the Council has to make cuts, and you would expect that the business case for taking this action was – water-tight!
The Council’s budget for 2016/17 plans the savings to be £214,000 in 2016, £268,000 in 2017, and £368,000 in 2018…and each year thereafter.
It is well publicised, and confirmed in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request that the pool is actually still being used by Derventio Excel Swimming Club and City of Derby Swimming Club. So, hopefully, the income received from those clubs matches the costs incurred so as not to compromise the budgetted savings for 2016/17.
It is not unreasonable to think that, in order for the Council to be confident that it would save this money, it would know, clearly, the costs of the Pool. That seems fairly logical – as the mantra goes “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.
So on that basis I asked some simple questions through FOI:
1a. For the year to 31 March 2016, can you advise how much money was spent in respect of Moorways swimming pool?
1b.For the year to 31 March 2016, can you advise the income from paying customers, clubs etc?
1c. For the year to 31 March 2016, can you advise the net cost to the Council
1d. If a. minus b. doesn’t equal c. please advise what costs/income makes the difference in detail
In order calculate the expenditure and income for the Swimming Pool, the following would need to be undertaken based on the income/ expenditure:
Manually extract everything from the budget that not swimming pool related. This will then give an income and expenditure cost for Moorways Swimming Pool In addition the property related costs for Moorways Swimming Pool are held by the Council’s Property Design & Maintenance Team. The property information is held at service, site and pool level. In order calculate the expenditure for the Swimming Pool, the property team would need to go through various electronic and manual records to identify and extract the expenditure associated with Moorways Swimming Pool.
To undertake this work would take over three days
I also asked for details of the monthly income/expenditure up to the current date. The response was the same, and it would take over one week to prepare this.
On this basis, the Council concluded it was too expensive to answer my request, and rejected it.
It is without doubt that if you close a swimming pool, costs will be saved – but that is not the issue. This is a question of magnitude. I had expected that, as this was such a cornerstone of the public cost savings required for this year, that someone was monitoring it closely, on a monthly basis, to ensure that it actually did happen to the extent that was publicised.
Saving money is not an act of faith, and for something of this nature – it has to be managed – and managed regularly. They are clearly not measuring it….so they are not managing it! We will not know if all of this upset has actually delivered the savings that were claimed.
As so many people used the pool for health benefits including children, and disabled people, the closure could not/ should not have been done on a whim. To say that it takes a week to establish the costs is unacceptable. This is a serious question of accountability and Derby City Council are looking very vulnerable at the moment.