Protesters have reacted with dismay at surprise plans that could allow a private company to take over the running of a Birmingham swimming pool threatened with closure.Related content
Leisure boss Martin Mullaney, at a meeting on Tuesday night, said Pulse Fitness have offered to demolish and rebuild decaying Sparkhill Baths for less than half the £13.5million the council had quoted to carry out the work.
Under the new plans, the council would pay the company around £6 million to build the facility on Stratford Road and would run it for the next 30 years at no cost to them.
Councillor Mullaney said the Public Private Partnership could even generate a profit for the council and it was up to the public to decide if they wanted a 25-metre pool with a separate 13-metre learner pool, a gym, sauna and cafe area, at a meeting held at St John’s C of E School in Sparkhill.
If approved, swimmers could be using the new pool from late 2012.
During previous meetings, more than 60 campaigners from the Save Sparkhill Baths group voted unanimously against plans for a privately-run baths saying it was the council’s responsibility to run them.
There were strong concerns expressed about prices, maintenance, standards, jobs and what would happen if the company went bust or fell out with the council.
A series of public consultations will be held over the next couple of months and the bidding process opened.
Coun Mullaney said the “health of residents should be held hostage to a political philosophy” and urged the campaigners to support the proposals.
He said: “The council would still own the building. The private company would design, build and run the facility. We will pay for them to build it and will have a profit sharing agreement. We will even set the fees”
Helen Coulthard, chair of Save Sparkhill Baths, said: “We are pleased that it’s not at Moseley School, but we are still concerned that a private company will run it.
“We are going to have a strong impact with the consultation. We are not happy and they are selling it as a done deal.”