Corby pool is draining council’s finances by more than £1m per year

Corby Council is subsidising its international swimming pool to the tune of more than £1m a year.

Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 10:47 am
The pool has become an iconic part of Corby but it is costing the council a large amount to run each year.

After outgoings and income the leisure facility in the Parkland Gateway complex cost the authority £110,000 a month in the most recent financial year.

And the Labour-run authority is predicting it is going to cost even more to run this financial year, with the subsidy expected to go up to more than £1.3m.

The figures have been revealed in the authority’s budget book which gives a detailed breakdown of how much the pool is costing the council and its residents.

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The pool celebrates a decade of leisure activity this year.

The wage, pensions and training bill in 2018/19 was £1.354m and this salary bill is expected to rise to £1.466m.

Altogether the outgoings of the pool are predicted to run to just over £2.95m this year against an income of £1.65m.

Leader of the Conservative opposition Cllr Kevin Watt has said the pool cost should not be above scrutiny and has questioned why the complete finances of the popular leisure facility have not come before the council’s overview and scrutiny committee in recent years.

He said: “I always knew the pool did not make a profit, because if pools did then private companies would run them. But I was not aware of the level to which Corby Council was funding the pool as it has never been raised as an issue. The taxpayer should know the costs.”

The idea of a new pool for Corby was first floated and approved in 2002. A 25m pool was approved in 2004, but in February 2006 then chief executive Chris Mallender championed the case of a 50m international pool, saying that with the 2012 Olympics coming up the authority was ‘missing a trick’ .

The upgrade to the £50m pool – at an additional build cost of £9m – was subsequently agreed and a report commissioned by the council said a 50m pool would cost about £281,000 more per year than the smaller pool.

At the time critics said that the bigger pool would not be viable or financially sustainable because the town was not big enough to sustain it.

The pool, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, has been a popular asset to the town and part of the regeneration which has boosted the town’s reputation in the region.

A spokesman for Corby Council said: “The cost to run Corby East Midlands International Pool last year was more than anticipated by £140,000, which was mainly due to utility cost increases being significantly higher than expected and fitness income not being fully achieved.

“The budget for the pool has increased for 2019/20 by £182,000 due to expenditure required for staffing, the living wage increase and central support and depreciation costs. Notional depreciation of £371,500 and support charges of £119,000 are included in the £1.3m budget.

“Currently, we are investing in LED lighting and are working to refurbish the pool filters which will reduce the cost of electricity and water, therefore allowing utility charges to fall in 2020/21.

“Last year, the facility had a footfall increase of 18,000 and our swimming lesson programme also continues to rise with over 6,800 lessons now provided each month, which has helped the pool income achieve £1.6m per annum.”