‘We won’t accept community vs community’: Glasgow East End residents defend pool threatened with closure

Ben Wray

Organisers of campaign to save swimming club say they will not accept “community versus community argument”

A DEFIANT meeting of local residents and swimming club members have pledged to resist the closure of sports facilities threatened by Glasgow City Council cuts.

Up to 100 Dennistoun residents and Whitehill Swimming Club members gathered in Dennistoun Library for a local community councill meeting last night [8 February], to demand protection for their local pool and sports facilities and insist that the closure of, or cuts to, those facilities would damage community life in Dennistoun.

Whitehill pool was one of dozens of community facilities earmarked for potential closure by GCC in documents leaked to the Evening Times late in 2018.

Other sport facilities being considered for closure to as part of a package of cuts include Barlia Sports Centre, Bellahouston Bowls, Drumchapel Pool, Greenfield, Ruchill Golf, Haghill, Ibrox, John Paul, Lister Street Bowls, Lochend and Stepford according to leaks to the Glasgow paper.

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Speaking to CommonSpace after the meeting Craig Cunningham, a pool manager with the Whitehill Swimming Club, said that the pool was an historic asset of the local community.

He said: “We want to make sure Whitehill remains open. We’ve been in Whitehill since 1977, some of the members that are involved today have been involved since the very beginning.”

However, he also added that no sport facilities should be closed, and that the Whitehill campaign would not be set against other community campaigns.

He said: “One of the main points that was touched on last night was the importance that it doesn’t become a facility versus facility or a community versus community argument. We are trying to make sure that the campaign that gets kicked off is a glasgow wide campaign and that anybody who is effected by any of these closures, that any of the facilities in any of the communities can come together under one campaign and try and fight for the survival of all of them rather than people going head to head trying to defend one over the other.”

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A Change.org petition opposing any potential closing of the Whitehill facility signed by over 3,000 local residents and supporters reads: “Whitehill Swimming Pool and the Club’s future is entirely dependent on the premises remaining open and we need to ensure Glasgow City Council are aware of just how vital a resource Whitehill Pool is to the community and to citizens across the city. We currently have around 200 members and ask you all to use your voice to support the Club at this precarious time. We have been a community club since 1977 and we hope for many many years in the future.”

Other potential money raising measures raised in the GCC documents leaked to the Evening Times in December include raising street parking costs and reducing bin collections to every three weeks.

Leader of Labour councillors and former council leader in Glasgow, Frank McAveety,  has said the SNP administration must stand up to the Scottish Government and demand more funds to avoid the cuts, which he claimed were the deepest in the austerity era.

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However, residents at the meeting also complained of years of cuts under Labour GCC administration. They warned SNP councillors that htey could be replaced as Labour councillors have been.

The meeting also received support from Fatima Uygun, who is active in the campaign to save and restore Govanhill Baths. She told the meeting that cuts were not necessary and could be successfully resisted as they had been in Govanhill. 

She posted on the Dennistoun Information community Facebook page: “On behalf of Govanhill Baths we are 100 per cent with the campaign to save Whitehill and from what I witnessed tonight the Council are in for one massive fight. The uncompromising mood, solidarity and unity in the room against this disgraceful decision made my heart swell. Well done to the good folk of Dennistoun. United We Will Swim.”

GCC has described the leaked documents as a “technical excercise” and said the proposed cuts and other measures “do not constitute any group’s proposed budget”.

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Meanwhile, Scottish Government Finance Minister Derek Mackay addressed the Scottish Parliament Local Government committee today about the 2019/20 draft budget. Council umbrella body Cosla has claimed that the plans, which were presented as a slight increase to council budgets over the next year, are in practise a £237 million cut. 

Mackay defended the draft budget, while stating that he accepted that money was tight due to UK Government austerity. 

Scottish Greens local government spokesperson Andy Wightman MSP questioned Mackay on his plans and was left unimpressed.

He said aftewards: “Derek Mackay needs support to pass his budget but he’s not helping himself by continuing his smoke and mirrors routine, claiming to give more cash to councils but denying the true extent to which their hands are tied by Scottish Government ringfencing.  This ultimately means that cuts will fall most heavily on the services which matter to local communities. 

“COSLA has even highlighted the absurd situation that while extra cash is being given to increase childcare provision from 600 to 1140 hours, cuts to Councils’ core budgets, which pay for the existing 600 hours, might mean those commitments can’t be delivered after all, unless Councils effectively ringfence the whole sum.  We could then end up with councils and Scottish Government passing the buck on who’s to blame, and the public deserve better than that.”

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