The £60million cost of Birmingham’s 50m swimming pool will be renegotiated to get a cheaper deal from recession-hit builders.
Officials have been ordered back to the drawing board by city council leader Mike Whitby, who said initial estimates for the Olympic-size facility should be “torn up and thrown away”.
His dramatic intervention came at a cabinet meeting after mounting concern about how the council will fund the pool.
Only half the construction costs have been identified, and no provision has been made to cover running costs.
A cabinet report predicted a £400,000 annual loss for the 50m pool, earmarked for a site next to the National Indoor Arena.
The council hopes to have the new facility open in time for swimmers to use in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) said the economic downturn put Birmingham in a stronger position to secure a better deal.
He added: “Any quote received three months ago needs to be torn up and thrown away. We are in a different environment where the power of purchasing gives the public sector an advantage.
“I would like to think any quotation we received will be renegotiated.”
The NIA site is being favoured over Aston University, which would have been more expensive.
Coun Whitby said there were legitimate questions about costs, adding the project was at an early stage and estimates could change.
It remained unclear how the funding gap could be closed, given the difficult financial position of the leisure department, already on course for a £750,000 deficit this year.
Cabinet leisure, sport and culture member Ray Hassall insisted there were no plans to save money by closing pools, although a written report in his name raises the prospect of raising cash by “rationalising inadequate buildings”.
Coun Hassall (Lib Dem Perry Barr) said a sports facilities strategy, which proposes spending £84.5million on new swimming pools, would lead to better provision. As well as the 50m pool, the strategy proposes refurbishing Harborne and replacing Stechford Cascades.
Coun Hassall added: “The funding will be developed and a business case that stacks up will be brought back.”
Opposition leader Sir Albert Bore said interest on the £24million the council intends to borrow toward the cost of the 50m pool would amount to £2.4million a year. He feared the money would have to be found from the leisure department budget, which would mean a “squeeze”.