Save Oaklands Pool! , photo Southampton SP

Save Oaklands Pool! , photo Southampton SP   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)


Save Oaklands Pool – “This is what we pay our council tax for!”

Nick Chaffey

Alongside Southampton rebel councillors Don Thomas and Keith Morrell, trade union members from Unison and Unite, Oaklands Pool campaigners and Socialist Party members gathered in solidarity to oppose cuts being made by the newly elected Labour council.

They were joined by campaigners supporting Jim and Lorayne Emery who are facing eviction from their tied house following Jim being made redundant from the council after 42 years’ service.

Campaigners from Oaklands Pool included members of Oaklands Team and Recreational Sports. They are a disabled users group who have used the pool since 2005.

Support workers explained that they have tried all the other local pools to find room for their club without success so have nowhere to go.

Campaign must continue

Wayne, a group user, said: “I’ve been training there and became a lifeguard. We have trained for the special Olympics.” Wayne is a European long jump gold medallist and bronze medallist in the 1,500m. “I feel disgusted at what the council are doing.

“After the year of the Olympics and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, closing the pool is against everything the public wants.”

Speaking to protesters, Councillor Don Thomas said: “The campaign to keep the pool open will continue to the day it is re-opened.”

Despite seeking consultation, the Labour council refused to hear a deputation of pool users for “technical reasons”.

The council agenda was then organised to discuss Oaklands Pool six and half hours into the meeting to ensure no protesters remained in the public gallery.

However, some of us stayed to hear Councillor Keith Morrell berate the Labour group: “The political decision to close Oaklands Pool was made in June.

The consultation counted for nothing. Shame on this council for betraying the people it was supposed to represent.” Labour Councillor Keogh suggested users should “take a bus” elsewhere!

Sam, Alan & Wayne protesting to save Oaklands Pool, photo by Southampton SP

Sam, Alan & Wayne protesting to save Oaklands Pool, photo by Southampton SP   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Councillors say they cannot afford the £250,000 ‘subsidy’ to keep the pool open. But this is not a subsidy – this is what we pay our council tax for! Rather than cut our services, Labour should fight the government for the money to run the services the city needs.

While £750 billion sits in the vaults of big business there is not a single justification for a single cut.

Labour’s broken promises

Don and Keith have been rewarded for standing firm to the election promises of the Labour Party to keep the pool open, by being suspended from the Labour group for the next four months.

The debate on the council budget revealed the unravelling of Labour’s election promises to the community and the workforce despite their claims to have restored industrial relations through proposals to settle the pay dispute.

Councillors must have had their eyes shut as they walked into the council past Unison and Unite banners! The Labour council faces massive cuts to support grants by the Con-Dem government.

Rather than standing firm with the unions and those who elected them and defying the cuts, Labour is now preparing to carry through £28 million cuts next year.

Southampton Socialist Party has given full support to Keith and Don and to the Oaklands campaign. Over 1,000 signatures that we collected were handed in to the council.

On Thursday 20 September, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is holding a public meeting on ‘How councils can fight cuts’. Labour group leader Richard Williams has been invited to speak as well as local Unite and Unison officers, with Clive Heemskerk speaking for TUSC.

Community activists and workers from the pool have taken leaflets to circulate. It is essential we build on the stand taken by Keith, Don, the unions and the community to develop an alternative to the cuts that can protect jobs and services and meet the needs of Southampton.

Southampton TUSC public meeting

How can councils fight the cuts?

Thursday 20 September, 7.30pm

Sir James Matthews Building, Above Bar Street, Southampton

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 14 September 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.