A union has called for sports and leisure centres in Kirklees to be brought back under council control.
The union Unison says a failure by Kirklees Council to take facilities back would be a “dereliction of duty.”
Kirklees Active Leisure, a charitable trust which manages facilities on behalf of the council, caused outrage in December when it announced the temporary closure of the swimming pool at Colne Valley Leisure Centre in Slaithwaite and both Deighton Sports Arena and Batley Baths & Recreation Centre.
The Colne Valley pool will re-open in April but the futures of both Deighton and Batley remain in doubt, despite a council bail-out of £6 million in the next financial year.
The decision in December was taken suddenly and without any public consultation, provoking anger across communities in Colne Valley, Deighton and Batley.
The issue was again raised at a full meeting of Kirklees Council at Huddersfield Town Hall on Wednesday night.
Unison KAL representative Lee Riley challenged councillors to save all Kirklees swimming baths by taking back control.
After the meeting, Unison regional organiser Robin Symonds said: “This isn’t the first time the council has thrown millions at KAL and it’s unlikely to be the last.
“KAL is clearly unable to run these vital public services across Kirklees and even with this latest bail-out is still threatening to close Batley Baths and Deighton Sports Arena.
“The privatisation of leisure services in Kirklees has clearly failed and the council’s failure to bring the service back into public ownership is a dereliction of duty.
“The council can’t keep pumping taxpayers’ money into KAL with no oversight of how the money is spent. Now is the right time to take back control.”
At the meeting Jean Margetts, speaking on behalf of the Save Our Colne Valley Pool group, said even though the group was pleased the pool was to re-open its campaign would continue to support other threatened centres.
“Our on-going concerns include the longer-term viability of KAL and the precariousness of its finances,” she said.
“During our very popular campaigning we have all had our awareness raised of the importance of the pools and centres to our personal, community and borough-wide health and well-being. Many of the personal stories and contributions have been heart-wrenching.”
Ms Margetts also took councillors to task for statements made in its various strategy documents and plans which contradicted with what happened over the leisure centres.
She said: “Here’s a few statements from Kirklees documents and plans. ‘We work with people, we don’t do things to them.’ ‘Our focus is on engaging people, building relationships based on trust and working with people and communities to solve problems.’
“The sudden announcement of the closures shocked, angered and saddened so many people and we said co-operation with communities and centre users should have taken place.”
Other council pledges included ‘honesty’ and ‘communications’ and Ms Margetts added: “I am sorry to say these elements were very heavily questioned after the closures were announced.”
Ms Margetts told councillors: “We all want to see more ‘working with’ and less ‘doing things to.’ Many of us across Kirklees have skills we’d be happy to share.
“We want to see and hear positive communication from our councillors about our public services and facilities. They are services for the people and not for profit. We want to see our services being promoted, being saved and being brought up to date instead of being washed away on a tide of cruel austerity.”
The meeting also heard from Daniel Hood, of Kirklees Enough is Enough, a group set up to fight the cost-of-living crisis, who said the decisions had already impacted the “living standards crisis” in the affected communities.
He said an equality impact assessment should be carried out in Deighton and Batley and also questioned why the council hadn’t insisted on an assurance that all centres would be saved when it pledged the £6 million bail-out.
He said KAL should “open their books” to the council and if the council wasn’t satisfied it should take back control.
Another speaker, Martin Shelton, of the Save the Batley Baths campaign, claimed local councillors weren’t listening to them.
He said all six Batley councillors had been invited to a meeting but only one turned up. Batley & Spen Labour MP Kim Leadbeater organised another meeting – and no-one from Kirklees attended.
“There’s clearly been a breakdown in communication between the council and elected officials and local people,” said Mr Shelton. “We feel this is not good enough.
“Surely our elected officials should be actively listening to our concerns on these issues and voicing them on our behalf, not having us struggle to have even an emailed rejection?”
Since Batley Baths closed local people of all ages, races, genders, disabilities and religions had been negatively affected in terms of their physical and mental health, he said.
In reply, Clr Paul Davies, Cabinet member for corporate services, said: “We understand the passion and emotion that surrounds this and we are listening. We have been listening, that feedback has come through and we have been working alongside KAL to ensure that consultation is taking place.
“No final decisions will be made until that consultation is complete. Our support package cannot solve all the problems but at least it does give KAL some options.”
On whether Kirklees Council would take back control, Clr Davies said while nothing was off the table, the focus was on helping KAL provide services across the borough over the next 12 months.