In the three surveys conducted (all of them financed by the council), 80% wished to keep the existing facilities, and 92% agreed with the statement, 'I want Victoria Baths to be done up. This would save some of the best bits of the building while making it more modern.'
When Councillor Jon Collins said "A small number of people want to refurbish an inadequate building" he is ignoring the consensus of the very people his own council surveyed and reducing their legitimate views to a meaningless soundbite.
Consultation revealed that people love the Victoria Leisure Centre and do not want a demolition, but a sensible look at what can be retained from the existing building and what cannot. The building is neither inefficient nor second class, as a whole host of evidence on the campaign website can verify. It is eminently saveable and can be developed in a sensitive and contemporary way that the people east of the city have asked for.
The Save Victoria Baths Campaign was set up to prevent the closure of the Victoria Leisure Centre. The campaign mobilised hundreds of people in a way that few campaigns do and made local and national headlines, yet the council have dismissed its ongoing work by referring to those active as "a small number of heritage folk". They have tried to marginalise those whose views they disagree with.
The City Council gave the community just four weeks to respond to their decision to close the centre on cost grounds, despite the fact (now known) that all along they could afford to refurbish it. Once the campaign was underway, the leader of the council, who is councillor for the St Ann's area, did not bother to turn up to the mass rallies to listen to his constituents.
When the campaign forced a retreat by the council, the council set up a working group, where meetings were not minuted and where the arguments won by the campaign and its supporters round the table were ignored by the council. Finally, the council spent thousands appointing a team of architects who are managed by a private company with no accountability to the electorate.
Where a council is elected by such a small turnout of the vote, democracy can only thrive through active and sincere engagement with the people. The closure of the Victoria Leisure Centre has prompted one of the most widespread and engaged campaigns of this council's term of office, buttressed by extensive surveys. Yet the council still feels able to disregard us all. What hope is there for the people to be heard? Please remember all this when election time comes round again."