Batley and Dewsbury residents unite in campaign against plans to close their towns' leisure centres
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Batley and Dewsbury locals have united in a campaign to combat plans to close their community’s much-loved leisure centres. Such plans are outlined in a report to today’s (Tuesday) meeting of Kirklees’ Council’s cabinet which proposes the closure of Batley Sports and Tennis Centre, Colne Valley Leisure Centre and Dewsbury Sports Centre.
Batley has already seen its leisure offering reduced after Batley Baths and Recreation Centre was hit by the wave of “temporary” closures last winter and was never reopened.
More recently, the Dewsbury centre was forced to close its doors immediately due to the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).
The campaigners have organised a meeting for 8pm on Friday, September 29, at the Al Hikmah Centre, Batley, to formulate a plan as a community campaign, not only around leisure centres, but the proposed closures of Batley Library, care homes and Cleckheaton Town Hall. Local councillors, trade unions and KAL have been invited to attend.
A spokesperson for the group said: “Last November Kirklees Council and Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) let down community members by shutting Batley Baths. The decision was made despite the facility’s overwhelming popularity and its role as an essential service for local residents.
“Just a week ago, Dewsbury Sports Centre was forced to close its doors due to safety concerns . We fear that the council will once again fail the Dewsbury community, and we suspect they have no intention of reopening this valuable asset.
“Recognising the urgency of the situation, Batley and Dewsbury are uniting to launch a joint community campaign. We refuse to allow the council to continue failing us.”
Trade union, Unison, has also been vocal about the council’s proposals for leisure centres, urging its members to lobby today’s cabinet meeting and call on the council to bring KAL back in-house.
The closure of the three centres are on the cards due to the financial positions of both Kirklees Council and Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) – the organisation that manages 11 of Kirklees’ leisure centres on the council’s behalf.
The council is facing a £47m black hole in its budget and KAL’s money problems began with the pandemic and have been amplified by increases to costs like energy and staff wages.
Last year, the council provided KAL with a £6.1m support fund to assist the organisation with its financial problems. However, the local authority is unable to provide this level of support going forward due to the financial issues of its own and says it can offer KAL a maximum of £2.55m annually.
As a result, a review is being carried out to determine which of Kirklees’ leisure centres can continue to operate with this reduced budget.
Huddersfield and Spen Valley’s leisure centres are safe under the proposals, as is the Stadium site.
As for Deighton Sports Arena, which was also impacted by the closures last winter, options like community asset transfer are being explored as KAL is due to withdraw from the site in November.
Six of the sites could stay operational due to the lower level of council contribution required or the extra time needed to secure more funding as is the case for the sites at Holmfirth and Bradley Park Golf Course. If government funding is secured for Scissett Baths and Fitness Centre, this could also remain open.
A spokesperson for Kirklees Council said: “The council agreed its medium-term budget strategy on September 13. The strategy sets out how the authority will achieve a balanced budget for the next financial year.
"A key part of the plan includes bringing forward budget savings proposals, which the cabinet will consider this week.
“No final decisions have been taken on any of the proposals. Cabinet members will consider all the issues, and engage with residents where appropriate, before coming to any conclusions.”