Closure of three leisure centres to be decided by council

The planned closure of pools in Armadale, Broxburn and Livingston has sparked outcry from communities.

West Lothian: Closure of three leisure centres to be decided by council Google Maps

 West Lothian Council are to discuss plans to close three leisure centres in a meeting on Tuesday.

The Executive – West Lothian Council’s decision making committee – has to decide on Tuesday whether to grant consent to West Lothian Leisure, the council’s arms length trust which operates leisure facilities – to close the pools in Armadale, Broxburn and Livingston by September.

West Lothian Leisure directors had ratified a proposal to shut Xcite Armadale, Xcite Broxburn Swimming Pool, Xcite Livingston and Howden Park Centre in Livingston in a bid to plug a £2.95m funding gap due to post-Covid cost pressures and the rising costs of running facilities.

While the council has granted temporary funding to maintain Howden Park beyond September, it has made no commitment to the pools.

A report found plans to continue operations at other venues were “not viable.”

The Joint Forum of Community Councils told councillors it was time for the local authority to “be the parent in the room”.

The Forum said £500,000 that West Lothian Leisure has asked for to pay redundancies should instead be invested in renewing leisure venues.

Howden Park Centre is to be repurposed as an arts and leisure venue

It also called for an inquiry into the handling of the leisure facilities by West Lothian Leisure – and for the results of that inquiry to be made public.

In a statement released at the weekend the community councils said: “The community has risen up with swift petitions against closure, attracting thousands of supporters. But judging by the report to be taken by the Executive Committee on Tuesday which is reportedly set to approve the closures, their views count for nothing.

“We urge the Council Executive Committee to reject the request for consent for WLL closures and to work with the community to develop a better plan for leisure provision in West Lothian.”

The statement added: “The Joint Forum believes that West Lothian Leisure is the problem, and that its mismanagement of leisure facilities over many years has led to this situation. 

“We call for an independent inquiry by public leisure experts into the management of leisure provision in West Lothian on behalf of the communities, with a remit to examine the council’s role over the last five years and for the next ten years as the strategic parent in the room.”

And the forum weighed into the council accusing it of doing nothing to save the pools. 

In their statement, the Forum said: “There were expressions of interest, some of them hastily knitted together by members of our communities that formed action groups. These citizens were suddenly having to think about forming companies, gathering community support for the idea of a local pool enterprise. 

“They got no support or help from their council; they were even asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. It was  ‘let’s ask the community to take these pools on, but let’s set an impossible deadline and withhold Capacity Building support or even forbid it financial assistance’. 

“One interview and then discarded as unviable.”

The Forum concluded: “The public of West Lothian deserves a much better leisure service, and we call for a clear strategy with investment plans for new pools and leisure centres to replace the ageing infrastructure. The findings of the inquiry should be made public, so that we can know if there is a future for leisure in West Lothian or if it is downhill all the way.”

A council spokesman previously said the closures were being considered as the council faces “significant and sustained budget pressures caused by increasing costs and insufficient levels of Scottish Government grant funding.”

Joyce Cameron launched a petition to save Broxburn Swimming Council from closure

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has increased the resources available to local government in 2023-24 by more than £793m, a real terms increase of £376m or 3%, compared to the 2022-23 Budget figures. It is the responsibility of local authorities to manage their own budgets and allocate the total financial resources available to them on the basis of local needs and priorities.

“In 2023-24, West Lothian Council will receive £405m to fund local services, which equates to an extra £17.2m to support vital day to day services or an additional 4.4% compared to 2022-23. In addition all councils will receive their fair share of the currently undistributed sum of £329.8m.”

A West Lothian Council spokesperson said: “West Lothian Leisure (WLL) has requested the council’s consent to close four facilities in West Lothian. West Lothian Council has agreed that all alternative options need to be explored for the retention of Xcite facilities before a decision is made on their future.”

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