Your say / knowle

‘It’s time to support the community to save Jubilee Pool’

By Gary Hopkins, Tuesday Aug 25, 2020

For the third time in ten years, the much-loved Jubilee Pool is under threat.

The first threat was in the pre-mayor time, when the deal to open Hengrove pool and the high subsidy being put into loss-making Jubilee gave genuine reasons to consider closing.

This was averted when a small capital investment in a gym and switching the contract to the same operator as Hengrove at a massively reduced subsidy saved the day.

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Three years ago, the present mayor decided to go for closure as he refused to pay any subsidy. Local councillors and massive local support sorted that problem out, but we now have the extra threat from Covid to contend with.

All pools were forced to close legally during lockdown, but can now open again. All of them face a need for a subsidy that was not there before Covid restrictions were necessary.

We have to be careful as the extra cost which turns pools in profit, as Jubilee was, into revenue losers may well be disappearing next year when a vaccine is widely available.

No exact timing is available for that and it is not absolutely guaranteed that a fully reliable vaccine will be found quickly but the first half of next year is the most likely outcome.

Why therefore would you choose, as the mayor is, to go for a permanent closure of a vital community asset because of a serious but almost certainly temporary threat?

Jubilee Swimming Pool is facing permanent closure – photo courtesy of CB Bristol Design 2020

The mayor cites in his “consultation” the £260,000 capital cost of future-proofing for the next 20 years but fails to point out the larger bills attached to all the other pools and the £1,000,000 revenue cost of compensation to Hengrove operators.

The pool has operated for the community since 1937 and many find its look very attractive.

Although there are extra costs with Covid, central government has covered the majority of them for Bristol City Council.

The community campaign to save Jubilee is strong, with thousands joining in the petition and protest. The mayor’s very predictable reaction to the campaign is “nothing to do with me, I have no money so you sort it”.

The council has public health and equalities responsibilities that he ignores but, of course, the community can help to provide a solution in the future.

I personally offered to talk it through officers before the hatchet job started but that was rejected. A community takeover will need time and careful planning, not an irresponsible political abdication.

The community has rallied to save the pool before – photo from Jubilee Pool campaign group petition page

Politics and running a city is all about choices.

The mayor chose to burn around £260,000 a week for four years on his Bristol Energy company gamble. Yes, that is the total capital future-proofing investment needed for Jubilee.

Were Jubilee to reopen before Covid restrictions are over, the subsidy cost would be around £15,000 a month. The mayor chooses to spend more than four times that on his private political cabinet office.

We should not forget that 13 people providing a service to their community will lose their jobs. Not good timing.

Prior to the debate in council, it would be sensible of the mayor to open discussions so he can find a way out of the corner he has painted himself into.

Speaking to campaigners yesterday, I was struck by how much they valued community life in Knowle and how much local volunteers were helping to provide many of the most valued and effective assets and facilities. It’s time to support them.

Gary Hopkins is a Lib Dem councillor for Knowle

Read more: South Bristol swimming pool faces closure

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