Protest demands re-opening of Batley Baths

With shopkeepers coming out to watch and other bystanders filming, the Save Batley Baths demonstration on 4th March was a success in continuing the pressure on Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) to re-open the Baths.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party Yorkshire secretary

The baths has remained closed since December when KAL decided to shut it, Deighton Sports Arena and the pool at Colne Valley Leisure centre citing spiking energy costs.

The campaigns that have sprung up since the closure have forced KAL back. Campaigners from Colne Valley Leisure Centre attended the demonstration and spoke where they have forced KAL to re-open their pool. At present though, Deighton Sports Arena’s future remains under threat, whilst KAL continue to insist on closing Batley Baths.

The demonstration heard that service users have been told to go to nearby pools, but Batley Baths provides access to swimming to a range of people including those who would have difficulty travelling, and women-only sessions particularly used by the local Asian community.

Unison, the largest local authority trade union in Kirklees, has gone to the press with the demand for KAL, which was set-up under initiatives of Blair’s Labour government to outsource local services to arms-length companies, to be brought back in house. This was demand was repeated by Yasar Ahmed chairing the rally at the demonstration on behalf of Save Batley Baths.

The two council wards are both held by three labour councillors, but only one of them turned up to a 60 strong public meeting organised by the campaign a few weeks ago. What has particularly angered the campaigners has been the attitude of the council leader Shabir Pandor, who is one of the Batley councillors. As Martin, one of the campaigners, explained to the demo when they took a deputation to address the council, he not only didn’t listen to the campaign, but was playing on his phone instead!

I spoke at the demonstration on behalf of the Socialist Party raising that Kirklees council shouldn’t just borrow £6m from their reserves to bail out KAL despite the closures, but an in house leisure service should be fully funded keeping all sites open. The council should use their reserves to do this in the short term, but link this to building a mass campaign with trade unions and the community campaigns to win the funding from the government to continue providing these services.

Given none of the parties on the council support bringing KAL in house, or support a no cuts budget to protect services, then I appealed to campaigners to stand against them in the local elections as part of the campaign to Save Batley Baths. If this was done through the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, then this would link them with similar campaigners, socialists and trade union activists in other areas locally and across the UK.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *