The day we had confirmation that Kirkham Baths was saved was one of the proudest days in my 11 years as one of your councillors.
It was vindication of a long struggle to keep the baths open, a battle in which so many in the local community fought alongside me. I can tell you that it was not easy to vote against my own party to keep the baths open – but that is how local democracy should be – with councillors voting in the interests of their local areas.
I was fortunate in that being the cabinet member for leisure meant I played the lead role in negotiations with the YMCA to take over running of the pool. This meant we got the right deal for Kirkham. There were lots of proposals floating round – some more sensible financially than others! There was lots of shouting in the local press, and unrealistic wish lists, none of which really helped save the baths. In my view, it was a matter of quiet, patient, behind-the-scenes diplomacy rather than a megaphone in the market square which saved the baths.
The afternoon I spent shadowing the lifeguards at the pool demonstrated just what a valuable part the baths play in our local community. You could see how the children loved it – having fun as well as learning those vital life-saving skills. Older people too could get the exercise they need to maintain an active lifestyle.
Funding council swimming pools is not cheap. Running costs get ever higher – just think of how your own heating costs have risen, and apply that to a heated swimming pool!
Free swimming for all is a great idea, but it would be a lot better still if Labour funded local government properly so that baths weren’t threatened in the first place. Everyone should have the chance to swim at a local pool.
I’m proud of the role I played to keep Kirkham Baths open. But in the end, what matters far more is that everyone in the area should be proud to have the baths available to them. And if I have one plea, it’s to make sure that we all use this excellent local facility, and demonstrate to the powers-that-be just how appreciated and valued it is.
We don’t just need a Victory March, we need increasing usage of our local treasure. Kirkham Baths is open. Let’s use it so as to keep it open.