Posts Tagged ‘pools’

Back to issues

May 8, 2010

It’s the day after elections, and despite the fact that my wife and daughter came out as the biggest winners it’s no time to rest. In all frankness I hate elections and I’m glad it’s finished, we can go back to think about real issues.

As I already wrote Lewisham Council is tendering a major contract for the running of most of our leisure centres. I write it here again to avoid it being buried under the electoral posts.

Because this is really important, it’s an opportunity that comes round only every few years, we must set up our local social enterprise to run the centres, just like other boroughs did. Local talents working for the local community and re-investing all receipts in our community assets.


Lewisham Leisure mega-contract needs fresh re-thinking

May 5, 2010

Two contracts with leisure operators to run almost all the leisure centres of the borough are to expire soon and Lewisham Council is now advertising a major long term contract to run them all on a long term basis.

The London Borough of Lewisham is seeking a partner to enter into a contract to manage, operate and maintain a number of existing leisure facilities (“the existing facilities”) together with 2 possible new facilities (“the proposed facilities”). The existing facilities comprise of the following leisure facilities : The BridgeLeisure Centre and Indoor Bowls Hall (Kangley Bridge Road, Lower Sydenham, London SE26 5AQ, UNITED KINGDOM); Ladywell Leisure Centre (261 Lewisham High Street, London SE13 6NJ, UNITED KINGDOM); Wavelengths Leisure Centre (Giffin Street, Deptford, London SE8 4RJ, UNITED KINGDOM). The proposed facilities are Forest Hill Pools (Dartmouth Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3HZ, UNITED KINGDOM) designed to replace the formerForest Hill Pools on the same site, and a new leisure facility development at Loampit Vale designed to replace the existing Ladywell Leisure Centre.

The Council proposes to award a 10-15 year contract in relation to managing, operating and maintaining the Existing Facilities with options (exercisable by the Council during this term) to require the partner to manage, operate and maintain the Proposed Facilities (such additional requirements to be performed within the 10-15 year term). It is estimated that the services in respect of the Proposed Facilities (if the option is exercised) will commence in the second year of the 10-15 year term.

Having watched closely how the leisure centres work in Lewisham I can surely say that there is a need of a serious re-thinking before committing to something like this.

The way this works now is a complete muddle, with results like the legionella bacteria crisis, when following discovery of the bacteria in the showers at Ladywell these were shut down by the contractor following an order from the Council (but allegedly without the knowledge of the Cabinet Member for Community). The result of this decision was that people couldn’t shower before swimming and therefore the water of the pool was becoming infested with other equally harmful bacteria.

The root cause was of course neglect, and at the root of that lack of funding for repair and maintenance.

This is a unique opportunity to re-organize these services so that they are maintained to the level they should be. It is also an opportunity to involve the local sport talents and clubs and develop a long term plan of sport development for the borough to make use the current local infrastructure to its full potential.

The first question to ask ourselves is how can we use these facilities at their best, and then look for the best way to run the centres to serve that plan.

Maybe Lewisham can set up its own social enterprise, 4 centres are already an economy of scale, that’s how Greenich Leisure started, they now run 70 leisure centres. Why provide profits for shareholders when we could be reinvesting in our community assets?

Because as the tender tells us there are money to reinvest, almost £2m per year:

Historic third party income levels in operating the existing facilities has been in the region of 1 940 000 GBP per annum (excluding VAT and the Council’s management fee). It is projected that income may not meet expenditure to manage, operate and maintain the facilities, thus, the contract awarded may involve a level of management fee payable by the Council. Further financial details will be provided in the tender pack and other procurement documents.

It can also be the way to keep services going and dodge those cuts that no doubt will soon hit our budgets.

Ladywell Pool looking for a new manager

January 21, 2010

Centre Manager

Salary: Circa £28,000
Company: Parkwood Leisure
Location: Lewisham , United Kingdom

These are exciting opportunities to join one of the UK’s largest and most successful providers of Health, Leisure and Community Services. Operating in excess of 80 leisure facilities nationwide, we are now looking to recruit Managers to ensure we continually develop and maintain high quality customer services, whilst enhancing customer participation and enjoyment…

More details here.

The Ladywell Pool changing rooms debate

December 14, 2009

There are two letters about Ladywell Pool in this week’s Mercury, and both in response to a previous letter about the pool.
One is mine, the same that was published the previous week in the South London Press, the other is instead by a woman mostly saying the opposite of what my letter says, and that is actually quite funny. I guess that many readers that don’t have experience of Ladywell Pool will be thinking “who’s right?”.

In my letter I wrote among other things:

The way Labour-run Lewisham has kept the centre for years is nothing short of scandalous.
Still, the current manager is proactive.
There is work to be done but the place is in a better shape than it has been for many years.
Let me claim a share of the merit for the scrutiny that the Save Ladywell Pool Campaign has exercised.
The pool itself has clean water and offers a swimming experience that’s superior to most modern pools, as a large number of regular users can testify.

The other Mercury reader instead writes that (link to letter):

It is a public health issue. You only need to go to Ladywell to see what I mean.
I also have some damning photos taken inside the ladies’ changing rooms recently (scum, more scum, faeces, clumps of hair etc).
I am in full support of the Loampit Vale development.
It will provide a decent public pool facility for everyone in Lewisham.

I actually never understood the argument that because the changing rooms are dirty then you need to demolish a pool and build a new one. Do you blow up your house when it gets a bit messy? I suppose not, I guess you just get on and clean it. So why would a pool be any different?
As I said in my letter the water of the pool itself is actually clean, the water treatment plant was refurbished at the cost of £150k during the 2002-04 refurbishment. The legionella bacteria found at the pool had instead formed in the pipeworks of the showers, which is a separate system from the pool itself and was old and had been badly patched up during the decades, but that has now been replaced too.

I personally never campaigned for Ladywell Pool to be kept going in eternity, I campaigned for continuity of provision, for the pool to be kept open only until the replacement is built and operative, but I am not supportive of what the Council has planned for the reason that it will not be big enough for all, as I also explained in my letter:

The advice upon which the council based its sizing fails to accommodate the current users of Ladywell besides the thousands who will come and live around the new centre, not to mention that the impact of the transport interchange and the nearness of residents from the London Borough of Greenwich were also not taken into account.
In short, the centre is not bigger than Ladywell but the population to accommodate is – and by a great number.
As Ladywell Pool is currently working to capacity, then inevitably someone will be left out.

As for the cleanliness of the changing rooms, for obvious reasons I have never been in the Ladies’ changing rooms, but I have complained about the males changing rooms in the past and I think that things have improved. I heard from many women about their plight and was asked many times to tell the manager about the issue, which I did more than once.
Here are my notes from a meeting I had with the then manager in 2008:

Improvements have been done to the female changing room and there’s now a dedicated part time cleaner for the female changing rooms. He’d love to be notified by users if female changing rooms are in need of a clean. He can’t go in there, almost all personnel is male (this is an industry-wide problem) and if the female life-guards say that the changing rooms are dirty then they are sent to clean them and that’s not much of an incentive for them.

I can’t find my notes of the meeting I had a few months ago with the current manager (who is a woman and can therefore visit the ladies’ changing rooms) but I raised the issue again and she told me of a £25k budget this year to spend on the female changing rooms and as I wrote in my letter to the press I think she’s doing a good job but of course I can only speak about the male changing rooms.

There has always been a lot of discontent about the changing rooms, even from supporters of the pool, and especially women.
I think that there are various issues at play here.
One is the obvious argument that they are dirty at times and they need better cleaning.
But besides that I think that there is also an issue of perception and expectations.
The decor of the changing rooms is not great, they’re worn out 60’s changing rooms, basic but a bit grotty and even when just cleaned they don’t really shine. I’ve been to Downham Pool and I found the changing rooms quite dirty actually, obviously not cleaned carefully in the corners, and yet since it’s new and airy and bright it looks better than what it is.
The other consideration is about what we should expect from public pools. When you shower chances are that between you and the last time the shower was scrubbed a few tens of people showered in the same place. I see the attendants cleaning quite often and doing a decent job too. But there are hair in the shower, and many users do leave a mess behind them, and it stays there until someone cleans it, and in the meantime you’ll stare at it. I too recently found a turd in the plate as I entered the toilet, it wasn’t mine but I flushed it. I could have taken a picture of it but somehow didn’t think about it. I remember it clearly not because I was particularly shocked by it but because I and other swimmers in the changing room mowned at length about people that don’t flush and fantasized about what we’d do to them (things you chat about at the pool).
But there is also some responsibility of the Council, if the changing rooms were better looking then people would treat them better, that’s what always happens and it really wouldn’t cost a fortune to make them a nice and welcoming environment.

To finish, Ladywel Pool is owned by the Council and managed by a contractor of their choosing, why would ever Loampit Vale Pool, again owned by the Council and managed by a contractor of their choosing, have cleaner changing facilities? Just look at Downham Pool, quite new and not particularly clean.

Recently posters inviting people to shower before swimming have appeared in the changing rooms, I’d make that compulsory actually, to avoid the hair in the shower you just need to wear slippers, to avoid what people bring with them inside the pool you need a bodysuit, and that’s not really practical.

Letter in the South London Press

December 6, 2009

On Friday the South London Press published this letter of mine about the new pool at Loampit Vale.

Sad dives

November 26, 2009

Everytime I asked at Council why the specifications of the “state of the art” new swimming pool planned for Loampit Vale are so poor and made specific reference to the very low depth that would never allow diving again in this Borough I was always told that hopeful divers are very well provided in South London and that there’s no demand for more diving facilities.

The South London Press now shows us what these wonderful facilities that our Labour Councillors were speaking about look like. Kids in a freezing room jumping on mattresses pretending they’re in a swimming pool! Of course when the Olympics were presented the opening video opened with some great divers, good for presentation purposes, not good enough to support for real.