Friday, February 19, 2010

Irony lives

The shortfall in capital spend in leisure services is pitting the Mike Whitby Vanity Swimming Pool against community facilities in Sparkhill, Moseley and Stechford.

Put simply, while the cabinet report approved in October 2009 lists sources of funding totalling £102.4 million, very nearly half - £51.1 million - is classed as high risk. A further £7.5 million is earmarked only for Harborne and BALC and is thus unavailable to Sparkhill/Moseley. Referring to the contingency and capital receipts funding, the report notes that

Due to the high risk nature of the above potential sources of funding, it is considered that these cannot be assumed at this time to support the pool programme

The remaining low risk funding amounts to £28.5 million, insufficient to support the 5om pool and also unlikely to be sufficient to deliver the Harborne, Sparkhill, Moseley and Stechford community options. Once you take out the approved spending on Harborne, you are left with £17.2 million available - which is probably enough to deliver on Sparkhill and Moseley in some form, but not anywhere near enough to provide for the replacement of the tired-looking Cascades pool in Stechford.

Unless the capital funding situation eases rapidly, I suspect that it will come down to whether the political leadership is prepared to abandon either the 50m BALC complex or drop the community pools. I genuinely don't see a prospect of being able to afford both. It should be noted that the report put forward in October has committed the council to progress BALC, in principle at least and subject to planning and funding, putting that project ahead of any of the other community pools. As Whitby is committed to BALC and Mullaney firmly attached to Sparkhill/Moseley Road (although no councillor seems to be standing up for Stechford), the fight is very interesting.

All of this makes the title of the art project currently running at Moseley Road Baths rather more prescient than merely ironic.

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