Manchester Council face backlash from ‘dismayed’ campaigners over Levenshulme leisure centre closure

By John McDougall

Determined and passionate campaigners today spoke out against Manchester City Council’s proposals to build a new sports complex on the site of Levenshulme’s Arcadia Leisure Centre.  

Last month the council agreed to keep swimming baths in Levenshulme, Withington and Miles Platting open until new ones are built in 2015.

But at the executive committee meeting, campaigner Beth Marshall launched an impassioned plea to the council to not build the new facility on the Arcadia site.

“We cannot accept the saving of one facility at the price of another. We are shocked and dismayed,” she said.

“We will not tolerate the closure of one facility to save another.  We are strong and we are here to work with the council.

“This is not the end. We have done this before and we will do it again. We know that times are tough but we believe we can work together.”

The meeting was interrupted as the campaigners walked out following the council’s decision to vote in favour of the proposals.

Leading them was Aiden Lawler – whose family have previously worked with the council to keep the centre open – who did not hold back with voicing his frustrations.

“Why are you cutting our services? What about us and our facilities? Absolutely disgusting on every single one of you, you should be ashamed of yourselves” he said.

“How can you sit here and put the budget through – you’re a waste of space. The building is not even running in debt.

“How dare you put that through and not make an amendment about the Arcadia. They say cut back, we say fight back! No if’s, no but’s, no public service cuts!”

Prior to the disruption, members of the council’s executive committee had approved the closure of Broadway’s facilities on May 26. 

Manchester City Council have to make £80million worth of spending cuts over the next two years – the largest local authority funding reduction outside of London.

Council leader Sir Richard Leese highlighted once more the extremely difficult financial circumstances imposed on them and that funding is scarce in these austere times.     

“It should be wrong to suggest to members of the public that we are awash with money and that we can do what we like,” he said.

“There are a lot of things we have to do with that money and we are still £10million short of what we should be getting.

“When we took these discussions, we have to take them in context. Our budget is going to get worse next year and then worse the year after that.”

Despite the objections to some of the council’s proposals, deputy leader Jim Battle spoke of their pleasure at working together with residents to find solutions.  

“I am pleased these have been welcomed by those communities and we want to work with them,” he said. “It is the beginning of the process and not the end.

“We have had more cuts than anywhere else – we have faced adversity and tried to do our best.    

“I think the work that has taken place between council officers and local communities is something we should be proud of.”

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