29 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: Protect swimming pools and leisure centres from closure with “critical health infrastructure” status
  • Welsh Lib Dem leader meets Aber student union following scrapping of teacher training

Lib Dems: Protect swimming pools and leisure centres from closure with “critical health infrastructure” status

The Liberal Democrats have called for swimming pools and leisure centres to be designated as “critical health infrastructure” to protect them from closure.

It comes as new analysis by the party shows 266 local authority swimming pools and 261 leisure facilities have been closed since 2015.

Once new openings are taken into account, there has been a net loss of 31 local authority swimming pools and 19 leisure facilities since 2015.

A series of Parliamentary Questions from Helen Morgan MP to Ministers showed year on year closure of swimming pools across the country alongside the loss of leisure centres.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a new national designation to safeguard local health and leisure facilities from closure. This would enshrine protections into law, meaning central and local government would have a legal duty not to cut these services and must maintain adequate funding to keep them open as they’re critical to the nation’s health.

This would be similar to the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) designation, which protects facilities providing essential services such as water supply and energy. The new designation for critical health infrastructure would ensure that even in tough financial periods, facilities that boost the nation’s health are maintained.

The Liberal Democrats have blamed the closures on funding cuts from the Conservatives. They are calling on the government to support Councils and come up with the funds to support facilities that have been hit hard by the lack of local Government funding.

The Party are today also calling for local government to be fairly funded and for the Government to close the current £4 billion funding gap immediately identified by the cross-party local government Select Committee.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:

Swinging Conservative cuts to local councils have led to swimming pools, leisure centres and other facilities closing, leaving too many communities without access to safe and affordable health and fitness facilities.

Across the country, local people of all ages rely on these amazing facilities to improve their physical and mental health, to socialise and rehabilitate.

In the middle of a public health crisis, these closures are a false economy.

Swimming pools and leisure centres are so important to local communities and for the health of the nation, that’s why we’re calling for new laws from the government to ensure they’re protected.

We must stop the Conservatives tearing apart local communities and the best way to do that is by sending them a message they can’t ignore in the local elections on the 2nd May.

Welsh Lib Dem leader meets Aber student union following scrapping of teacher training

Last week, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds visited Aberystwyth University to meet students following the announcement that the University will be scrapping their Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) program.

The announcement comes after the publication of an Estyn inspection report last year, which found that the institution had “been too slow” when it came to prioritising student support.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have now called for the University to produce and implement an action plan that will enable the reintroduction of this course at the earliest opportunity, as well as for the Uni to rectify any similar shortcomings in other training programs.

Commenting, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds MS said:

Aberystwyth University has long been seen as a cornerstone of education here in Wales, and its role in shaping the future of Welsh-medium education is pivotal.

However, the decision by the Education Workforce Council to withdraw accreditation for their teacher training program now puts this at risk.

The report published by Estyn rightfully identified several flaws in the Uni’s approach to supporting student teachers, along with requiring the University to make significant improvement.

The decision of the EWC suggest that these improvements have not been made.

We are now calling on the University to get their act together, fix the shortcomings in this program and begin plans to reintroduce the course as soon as possible.

Commenting, a spokesperson for the Welsh Young Liberals said:

There was an overwhelming lack of support, especially for Disabled Students, which has been consistent since 2020.

Previous lecturers were always late, and assignments were marked late and inconsistently.

As a joint honours student my timetable is very erratic, and this has an adverse effect on my wellbeing.

This does not however, mean that the course should be cut, Aberystwyth university should be looking to improve the course and help deliver the next generation of teachers.

Commenting, the Welsh Liberal Democrat PPC for Ceredigion Mark Williams said:

The reputation of Aberystwyth University as a well-respected centre of education is rightfully a source of pride for many residents here in Ceredigion.

This is why it is so disheartening to hear that the Uni have failed to take the recommendations in the 2023 Estyn report seriously, leading them into the embarrassing position of losing their accreditation which risks delivering a severe blow to the future of Welsh-medium education.

The lack of foresight from the Uni in this regard is deeply worrying and I hope that, for the sake of both the students and the wider community, they take all the steps needed to restart the course at the earliest opportunity.

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12 Comments

  • Mary Fulton 30th Apr '24 - 7:38am

    Outlawing the closure of swimming pools and leisure centres on health grounds is an interesting proposal. However local authorities would have a workaround unless the law also bans local authorities from selling or transferring the ownership of swimming pools and leisure centres to other bodies. Without this, local authorities could transfer ownership of swimming pools and leisure centres to community owned companies and then just leave them to close through bankruptcy (as most are loss making), while claiming ‘legally not my responsibility’.

  • Steve Trevethan 30th Apr '24 - 7:40am

    Has the staffing at the University of Aberystwyth been sufficient?

    Might this problem be a consequence of the marketisation and commodification of (teacher) education?

  • Mark Frankel 30th Apr '24 - 7:48am

    The LibDem administration in Kingston upon Thames knocked down the Kingfisher Leisure Centre planning to rebuild it at one price, only to find that price had doubled once the Centre had been replaced by a hole in the ground. We don’t always get the practical matters right and in this case will be justly punished by the local electorate.

  • Mick Taylor 30th Apr '24 - 8:22am

    Check your headline Mark. I’m not sure how you scrape teacher training!

  • I thought the LibDems were the party that believed in decisions being made locally? A law telling local authorities what they can and can’t do with their leisure centres sounds to me like more centralised control and more over-regulation. Totally agree that we need leisure centres but the solution is surely to make sure local councils have adequate funding that they can afford to run leisure centres, not to further hamstring councils’ freedom.

    With leisure centres, there’s also a tricky issue that you’re competing with numerous private gyms and private providers of exercise classes. How do you balance making sure that the public have access to a resource from a local authority when that resource is often quite successfully provided commercially anyway?

  • ” The Liberal Democrats have called for swimming pools and leisure centres to be designated as “critical health infrastructure” to protect them from closure. It comes as new analysis by the party shows 266 local authority swimming pools and 261 leisure facilities have been closed since 2015″.

    Why did the Lib Dem analysts choose 2015 as the start date for their research ? According to ‘LocalGov’, (the online daily briefing from the LGA), on 5 October last year ‘Swim England’ claimed that, “More than 1,000 publicly accessible pools have closed since 2010”.

  • Steve Trevethan 30th Apr '24 - 5:42pm

    Might the concept and word « Relationality » help us as individuals, groups and a society?

    « Relational, thinking, feeling and behaviours approach and understand human systems through the lens of the relationships within those systems rather than through the more familiar lenses of finance and politics. Examples of such systems include societies as a whole, education, health and well-being, social care, the environment, family structures and any systems of which humans are a part.” (From Whole Systems Partnership: Relational thinking)

    Might our party have the potential to be a party of assertive, well publicised relationality?

    Might neoliberal austerity be corrosive and/of destructive of equitable, relational society efficiency?

    Might the unstated/submerged purpose of austerity-neoliberalism be to divide our society into two two groups, one of which is extremely wealthy and the other is impoverished and deprived of life enhancing items, such as shared, accessible leisure places and shared, essential infra-structures such as promptly accessible A & E departments?

    Might a consequence of sustained/increased austerity be increasing legislation and enforcement to obstruct protests?

    Etc?

  • @simon r
    “ How do you balance making sure that the public have access to a resource from a local authority when that resource is often quite successfully provided commercially anyway?”
    I’ve yet to find a commercially run Olympic standard swimming pool ( or a pool that requires more than a dozen or so strokes to complete a length)
    Furthermore, none of the local “health clubs” offer a sports hall where badminton, football, volleyball etc. can be played, as for outdoor facilities… and I won’t get on to the provision of cycling facilities such as the velodrome at derby, operated by the local council in partnership with British Cycling…

    The private clubs have done what private does very well, cream off the high value, cheap to run business…

    @mark
    “ with towns and villages increasingly taking on projects that principal authorities (don’t want to fund)”
    Over a decade back our parish council and residents association forced the council to handover the ownership of the community centre (build with section 106 monies) to the village, yes it means our precept is higher, but we get to decide on what happens there and the prices. Unlike other council owned facilities caught up in the demise of Northamptonshire County Council and the subsequent restructuring… It took a trip to the high court and several years of patience for a local library to be extracted from the wreckage of NCC (the commissioners wanted to sell it off for development), so there are some benefits in local communities taking projects out of the hands of councils…

  • @mark
    Agree with what you say.
    Also I appreciate the difference between a community centre and a traditional village hall, which can make a difference between what is possible.

    yes our parish with less than 1000 homes (including circa 100 housing association/social homes) is probably reasonably well off and hence feel able to charge a precept of a little under £94 this year, of which a significant amount will subsidise the community centre and sports pitches… in some respects because of the costs and need to justify the expenditure, there is an incentive for both resident’s association and parish council to ensure the facilities are being used for community benefit.

    The Community Ownership Fund win is significant and welcome, I anticipate one or more of our surrounding villages with less well used and funded, but equally important village halls will be applying.

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