Sink or swim for coalition in crucial Waterworld vote

Campaigners protest outside Leith Waterworld

Campaigners protest outside Leith Waterworld

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THE city’s Labour-SNP coalition is today facing the first major test of its alliance over the community bid to save Leith Waterworld.

Labour councillors are under pressure from campaigners and residents to support the Splashback group’s plan to reopen the leisure pool after making sympathetic noises during the council elections earlier this year.

They also placed the concept of a “co-operative council” – involving local people more closely in the running of council services – at the heart of its plans for the city.

However, the SNP group is more likely to side with the recommendation of council officials to throw out the Splashback plans having been part of the previous administration that wanted to sell off Leith Waterworld to help fund the refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool.

A source said: “This is the first real test for the coalition. “There are tensions between those who were part of the previous administration who don’t want to give Splashback any encouragement, but the whole ‘co-operative council’ agenda is about working with local people to deliver the services they want.”

Ahead of separate group summits later today, moves have been made to persuade both parties to agree to give campaigners more time to address issues raised in a consultants’ report over the business case for the pool.

Leith Labour councillor Gordon Munro said: “I will be tabling an amendment to our group meeting tonight, looking at the involvement of council officers to help the community bid further.

“A similar position has been put to the SNP and I hope they will be amenable to supporting it.”

Leith Waterworld was receiving a £350,000-a-year subsidy before it closed in ­January.

The Splashback bid claims the subsidy can be reduced to £223,000, well below the Scottish average of £2.18 per visit, by various initiatives including boosting the soft play area, creating a children’s party room and an improved retail area, and hosting special events like night swimming.

An officials’ report for Thursday’s council meeting recommends that because there would be no capital receipt and the council would have to continue funding the pool, the bid should be rejected and the property remarketed.

Meanwhile, in an open letter to councillors, Charlotte Encombe, chair of Greener Leith, voiced the group’s support of the Splashback bid.

She said: “Thousands of people in Leith, and indeed all over the city, have signed petitions, and backed the Save Leith Waterworld campaign.” ian.swanson@edinburghnew.com