Nottingham City Council were under fire this week from campaigners trying to prevent the local authority from closing one of the city's oldest and most cherished public services, the Victoria Baths leisure centre. A move to rush the closure this spring has been greeted by uproar from local residents, who gathered for a protest at the Council House.
Over a hundred people mounted a vocal and insistent protest that the recently announced intention to force the closure is unacceptable for the residents of St Anns and Sneinton. Dozens of children from William Booth infant school, one of the schools who regularly use the pool for swimming lessons, bore placards they had drawn and coloured, and chanted 'we want swimming!'. The next demonstration is planned for Saturday 1st March, 11.30am in Market Square.
Campaigners were then held back and told that only twenty people would be able to observe councillors voting for the closure, because there simply wasn't room in the meeting. Council-house clerks and security guards told the residents to leave the lobby, but were defied. It emerged that council chief Jon Collins had given a prior assurance to campaigner and organiser Ellie Harrison, that everyone wanting to attend this public meeting would be accommodated, with a switch of rooms if necessary. Harrison demanded to speak to Collins, after which the meeting was switched to the large council chamber.
Councillors David Trimble and Jon Collins came under fire from the galleries as upset residents asked the board members repeatedly to state the criteria for keeping the facility open. Collins refused to address the question when put several times by liberal democrat Tony Sutton, and threatened to halt the discussion if the interruptions continued.
The board, with only a handful of the 55 members in attendance, agreed, 'in principle', to approve the closure of Victoria Baths, and will meet on March 18th to attempt to finalise the decision; however, as the Save Victoria Baths campaign gathers momentum and attracts support from local media, more look set to take a stand on refusing to allow the Council to spend millions of pounds maintaining a blank corporate image, while plundering people's local heritage and amenities. More protests and meetings are planned, with the next demonstration on March 1st.
The campaign's website calls for action: "We will congregate outside the Council House in Market Square and then march en masse to the Leisure Centre, where a public meeting will be held. Please get as many people as possible to come along to the demonstrations and show their support for the campaign. We need hundreds to get our message across to the council. Please make and bring placards and banners with you to raise awareness for the campaign."