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Final fight to save Willenhall Leisure Centre fails

Walsall | News | Published:

Last-ditch efforts have failed to rescue a Black Country leisure centre from closure and save trips for hundreds of children to an outdoor pursuits centre.

Last-ditch efforts have failed to rescue a Black Country leisure centre from closure and save trips for hundreds of children to an outdoor pursuits centre.

Despite pleas from campaigners, councillors upheld decisions to close Willenhall Leisure Centre and to withdraw funds for Bryntysilio outdoor pursuits centre in Wales in a bid to save money.

It follows the announcement that another £7.7 million is to be shaved from Walsall Council's budget this year because of government cuts, bringing the total reduction for 2010-11 to £22m.

The future of both sites was discussed at a special meeting of Walsall's community services scrutiny panel after councillors and campaigners objected to the subsidy axe on grounds that they provided a vital service to the community.

Up to 40 campaigners turned up at the meeting to make their feelings known.

Willenhall South representative and chairman of Friends of Willenhall Leisure Centre Councillor Diane Coughlan told the panel: "The problem with the leisure centre is simple.

"It has been starved of investment over the last 10 years and has been managed into the position it is now in."

But leisure boss Councillor Anthony Harris said he had heard nothing from objectors including schools and interest groups to change the situation at both sites.

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"All the arguments you have put up are arguments I would have put up if I was sitting where you are. Tough decisions have to be made," he said.

He said the centre, earmarked for closure in September, now costs £4,300 per week to run the most expensive in the borough and the figure was set to rise by a further £1,000.

Bryntysilio in Llangollen, Wales, is leased to the council at a cost of £500,000 per year by the Camp Trust and is visited by 1,400 pupils every year.

Bryntysilio manager Anthea Cooper told the councillors a 23-point action plan recommended by the panel six months ago had since been implemented to reduce costs as part of an efficiency drive, but needed more time to bear fruit.

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