Campaigners who have raised over £10,000 to keep Arthur Hill Baths open have condemned councillor Paul Gittings for saying that their fundraising effort was “misdirected.”
Reading Borough Council (RBC) closed Arthur Hill Pool in December last year as part of their efforts to manage their finances, and local campaigners raised the money to keep it open under the control of the local community until a replacement is built.
Councillor Gittings, RBC’s lead for culture and sport, congratulated fundraisers on their success during a public council meeting on 16 January, and then went on to say:
My honest view is that this fundraising is misdirected in view of the Council’s clear intent to provide, a modern, fit-for-purpose replacement swimming facility in the near future at Palmer Park and the enormity of the task of raising the huge amount of money that would need to be invested in able to enable Arthur Hill Pool to be re-opened.
“It’s a real shame that, instead of supporting a community campaign aiming to continue providing a service for local residents, councillor Gittings has decided to criticise the generous supporters who have given so much to help re-open Arthur Hill Pool,” said Phil Vaughan, a spokesman from the campaign to save Arthur Hill Pool.
“The East Reading community is united in wanting to reopen Arthur Hill, but it seems that the Labour Council has decided that it is going to work against the community rather than with it,” he said.
Mr Vaughan added that the council had no money, concrete plans or planning permission to build the promised replacement pool in Palmer Park by 2020.
“The campaign to reopen Arthur Hill is now engaging with national and local sources of funding and help, and has created a Community Interest Company (CIC) to take plans forward as quickly as possible,” said Mr Vaughan. “In spite of the negativity of Council leaders, the CIC, under the banner of ‘Arthur Hill Pool – Save Our Swimming (S.O.S.)’, is developing fresh initiatives to drive the campaign on with new vigour.”