Leisure centre petition in Cornwall for full vote on closures

Councillors are calling on people all over Cornwall to sign a petition to prevent the closure of leisure centres and allow a full vote.

Cornwall Council is currently considering whether to close leisure centres in Falmouth, Launceston, Saltash and Wadebridge as well as the hydrotherapy pool in St Austell.

As it stands the decision will be made by the ten Conservative councillors on the Cabinet, but Independent councillors are calling for the decision to instead be made by all 87 elected members through a vote by full council.

They have launched a petition to secure a vote and if it gets 5,000 signatures then it would have to be debated at a meeting of the full council.

The leisure facilities are under threat of closure after operator GLL told Cornwall Council that it could no longer run them without financial support.

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet has said that leisure services are not a statutory requirement and that they have no budget available for them.

Instead the council has said that it would be willing to work with community groups or other parties who might be able to take over the facilities and keep them open. A community interest company has been set up in Falmouth to try and keep Ships & Castles open.

The council has also said that under a new leisure strategy it will aim to ensure that residents live no more than a 30-minute drive from a leisure centre and pool.

News of the possible closure of centres has been met with a chorus of protests with many saying that the centres should remain open and are vital to the health and wellbeing of people in Cornwall.

It has also been highlighted that the public pools are an important part of teaching children how to swim and for use by lifeguards to train in the winter.

Others have highlighted that by forcing people to travel further to access services the council is contradicting its own declaration of a climate emergency.

In a statement independent councillors at County Hall said: “Previous council leaders have opted to allow all councillors to debate and decide on major issues such as this, for example the decision to fund a Stadium.

“The Independents believe that the Conservatives running Cornwall Council have already taken a political decision to refuse funding of the leisure centres, in Falmouth, Wadebridge, Launceston, Saltash and hydrotherapy pool in St Austell. All are therefore at risk of closing permanently as a result.”

Robin Moorcroft, independent councillor for Wadebridge West & St Mabyn, has launched the petition on behalf of the Independent group.

He said: “These closures will be devastating for people in my area who rely on the leisure centre for their health and fitness. But the threat is to five facilities. If the current council leaders can get away with deciding this in a group of ten, what is to stop them moving on to other closures in other parts of Cornwall without full debate?

“It is in everyone’s interest for the councillors elected across Cornwall to have a say. It should not be a political decision made by a small group from one political party. Councillor Taylor should make her case to all councillors – or better still announce she will keep them open.”

The independent group say they believe that the cost to keep the centres open is “small and easily affordable” and could be the equivalent of £1 for every person in Cornwall.

Cllr Moorcroft added: “If Linda Taylor’s Cabinet abandons these centres the risk is clear: they will never reopen. We think most councillors will want to give these facilities another chance to recover as the Covid pandemic recedes. Many jobs are at risk and we don’t feel the health of the local communities has been considered.

“Increasingly people are being prescribed healthy activity not just medicine. This is why our petition is classified as a health petition. These are places where Cornish children learn to swim and play sport. We should be thinking of their future.”

The petition, which currently has just over 2,500 signatures, can be found here: www.change.org/p/cornwall-leisure-centres-closing-let-all-councillors-have-a-vote

Falmouth Packet | Truro