Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Under the surface - intro

On the 23 December 2011, just after the deputation, and the vote in Full Council to bring the closing date forward to the 8th January we submitted three Freedom of Information requests to the City of Edinburgh Council.

Splashback has now received answers from the Council to our three requests, and in the spirit of openess we would like to share these with you... see below for 'Under the surface' - Parts I, II, III...

Under the surface - part 1

Think of this one like a swan - on top serene, whilst underneath frantically scrurrying away

In the Chamber on the 22 Dec Splashback requested that a proper Equalities Impact Assessment be carried out, as per the £9m funding agreement between Edinburgh Leisure and CEC, looking at the impact of closure on different user groups.  In the amendment to the Chamber, put forward by the SNP/Lib Dem administration, it was stated that "that a draft Equalities Impact Assessment had been submitted to the Council and was currently being assessed.'

So the next day we asked to see all correspondence between CEC and El regarding the EqIA, and here is what we received.

Some things we'd like to draw your attention to:

1. Unless we have been given incomplete information, the first mention in this financial year (eight months after the funding agreement was signed off) the 1st mention between EL and CEC was the day after we visited Councillor Brock (also Vice-Chair of EL )at her 7 Dec surgery to request the EqIA. (p1)

2. On the 8 Dec, the Chief Exec of EL is quoted (regarding the closure) as saying, "Given that it is clearly a done deal – it seems a futile too spend a lot of time on the EqIA." (p3)

3. The Head of Sport at CEC wrote on 15 Dec (7 days before the motion)"I have told them [the Splashback campaign group] that it wasn't required at the time when the decision was taken. However in discussing with Cllr Brock, she feels having an EqIA would be helpful at this point..." (p13)

4. An unnamed official notes, “I attended the Splashback public meeting last night with Cllr Brock. The meeting itself was very civilized” (p20) Thank you!

5. An unnamed EL staff member writes on the 19 Dec, “Got to say it is all too late for my liking... an EqIA needs to be built in, not bolted on (etc.etc.etc) (p23)

6. CEC Head of Sport writes on 19 Dec, “ I don't think that splashing around in LWW will actually have that much of a positive impact on health... kids maybe active but it is a leisure/fun pool and not necessarily increasing heart rats in the same way that doing 10 lengths of a traditional 25m pool would... " Ummm, FOI Reply Re EQIA

Under the surface - part II

Under the surface - part II:

Think of this one, like the Titanic - we know it's down there, but we can't get it out!

Much was made in the Chamber on the 22 Dec of the amount of subsidy required to keep Leith Waterworld open, the high staff costs and the high energy costs...

So the next day, we asked CEC for a full breakdown of these costs.  EL has refused us these on two occasions in the run-up to the motion. We presumed Councillors had sight of these, given the decision on the future of the pool was being taken by them... apparently not - "this information is not held by the Council".  We have still been unable to get a full breakdown of the operating costs from EL.

FOI Reply Re Operating Costs

Under the surface - part III

Under the surface - part III
Think of this like an iceberg - we can see some of whats there, but aren't sure what size it is underneath!

Following the decision to bring forward the closure of LWW on 22 Dec, our minds turned to what might be there if it was sold and no longer a leisure pool.

We asked to see “all correspondence between CEC and Tesco (or a party acting on Tesco’s behalf) regarding the Leith Waterworld site, either received or sent over the last year (1 December 2010 – 22 December 2010).  We were interested to receive the following response

In this instance, the Council is applying Commercial Interests and the Economy,Section 33 (1) (b) disclosure would (or would be likely to) prejudice substantially the commercial interests of any person or organisations.We believe that it would significantly harm and substantially prejudice the company concerned with regard to any future tenders they pursue"

Not a refusal on the basis that there isn't any correspondence but a refusal that it might prejudice commercial interests - We have, of course requested a review of this, citing public interest, which as the Scottish Information Commissioner notes, over-rides this exemption.

FOI Re Tescos

Friday, 27 January 2012

SOB story

The Homeless Itinerant Bathing Society (Edinburgh Branch) continues to gather apace.  This Sunday the Society will be marking our third week in existance with a brave foray across town to... Dalry Baths!  We have set the time at a later 10.30am to allow for members wrestling with the bus timetables and the potential lag as the bus negiotates this weeks route...

As always, all welcome!  Photo at the front at 10.30am...

Dalry Baths faced the axe from Edinburgh Leisure in 2010, but with a spirited campaign entitled SOB (Save our Baths) the local cmmunity gathered thousands of signatures in opposition and saved the pool!  Lots of useful info on their website.  Well done all!...

In an interesting footnote - the public petition was handed in by Labour MSP, Sarah Boyack.  The Council refused to accept it, instead pointing Ms Boyack to Edinburgh Leisure - amazingly Ms Boyack accepted this chicanery...

In the meantime here's Glenogle's report card from last week - full pdf is available here

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Homeless Itinerant Bathing Society (Edinburgh Branch) will this week, be visiting the recently refurbished Glenogle Baths in Stockbridge, which according to Edinburgh Leisure's website is "something of a rare breed - a hark back to Victorian baths, but with a modern twist."

Glenogle was the subject of a well supported community campaign, which put pressure on the Council to refurbish the baths as originally promised.  Whilst it came out that plans were being mooted the the pool could be 'redeveloped', the energy and commitment of the campaigners ensured that the baths were kept as a public amenity.  Following a £5.7 million refurbishment, the pool re-opened in July 2010.

The Homeless Itinerant Bathing Society (Edinburgh Branch) is open to everyone - just come along at 10am on Sunday 22 January morning for a photo at the frontdoor! The shy and latesleeping are welcome to join us after...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Fit for purpose?

Questions regarding Edinburgh Leisure are being asked in today's Scotsman; which featured a letter penned by a member of the Splashback campaign, in response to David Bellak, a pensioner concerned with Edinburgh Leisure's price rises:

Dear Editor

DAVID Bellak’s letter regarding the 33 per cent increase in price rises for pensioners using Edinburgh Leisure’s (EL) facilities (14 January) highlights a worrying trend in sports provision in the capital city. 

Crèche facilities at leisure centres have been withdrawn. Last spring, Edinburgh Leisure axed free swimming for primary-aged children. 

Since April 2010, Edinburgh schools no longer use EL services. Why? Last weekend Leith Waterworld, Edinburgh’s only leisure pool, closed because the savings would contribute to the bailout of the £7 million over-budget refurbishment of Royal Commonwealth Pool (RCP).
In doing so, Edinburgh Leisure disregarded one of the requirements of its funding agreement with the council to undertake an equalities assessment into how any closure might affect certain user groups, in Leith Waterworld’s case specifically the under-fives, children attending on their own and the disabled...


More media on the campaign to save Leith Waterworld in the last couple of days:

The Edinburgh Evening News reported on the inauguration of the Homeless Itinerant Bathing Society (Edinburgh Branch) in its Monday 16 Jan edition:

CAMPAIGNERS who battled against the closure of Leith Waterworld are planning to tour other pools en masse to inspect their facilities.

Waterworld closed its doors to the public on Sunday, but now the families who led the fight to keep it open have formed themselves into the Homeless Itinerant Bathing Society (Edinburgh).  From this weekend, campaign members will get together each Sunday to visit a pool to undertake a “swim inspection” before reporting their findings to the city council.


And STV reported on the formal complaint made to City of Edinburgh Council...

The campaign group Splashback has lodged a lengthy complaint about the conduct of Councillors while deciding the fate of Leith Waterworld which the group had hoped to save.

On Thursday, December 22 Splashback made a deputation to the City of Edinburgh Council at a Full Council meeting in a bid to prevent the leisure facility closing earlier this month.  The deputation failed to save LWW and the pool closed its doors on January 8.  Campaigners were “unhappy” with what they viewed as the “wrong decision” but were additionally disappointed by the behaviour of some Councillors present and as such Splashback submitted a complaint letter with eight specific objections.


New wave

Leith based independent film-maker and photo journalist, Jon Pullman made this short piece on the last day of Leith Waterworld...

Thanks Jon!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Breaking the waves

Photo taken at City Chambers, shortly after the Splashback deputation, 22 Dec 2011
 An official complaint (see below for full text) has been lodged with the City of Edinburgh Council, which refers to the Councillor's Code of Conduct 

15 January 2012

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing with a complaint about the behaviour of Councillors within the Full Council meeting, on 22 December, as both a member of, and on behalf of, the Splashback campaign, who made a deputation that day regarding the closure of Leith Waterworld.

I would like to raise several points, which I believe go against the recommendations of the Councillor's Code of Conduct, prepared and published by the Scottish Government in December 2010.

"The Scottish public has a high expectation of councillors and the way in which they should conduct themselves in undertaking their duties in the Council. You must meet those expectations by ensuring that your conduct is above reproach."

1.  We are very concerned that the formal decision on 1st February 2007 (on an all-Party basis) which stated that Leith Waterworld would remain open up until the new facilities at the refurbished Commonwealth Pool were open to the public was  not honoured and that an ‘Act of Council’ was not upheld. We believe that this sets a very dangerous precedent.

2.  We are very concerned that Edinburgh Leisure had not completed an EqIA regarding the closure of LWW, as per their funding agreement, prior to the decision being made in the Chamber on 22 Dec to close the pool on 8 January 2012.

3.  We wish to complain that Cllr Brock stated in the Chamber that a draft EqIA had been received, and indeed the amendment put forward by herself likewise states "that a draft EqIA has been submitted to CEC and is currently being accessed".  We have an email from EL on January 12 which states that "I can confirm that the Council have been finalising the EQIA over the last few days since we sent it to them last week." This would seem to contravene both the information provided by Cllr Brock in the Chamber, and indeed point 7 on the amendment.  We believe this contravenes the Code's advice on Honesty.

4.  We wish to complain that a decision was made in Chamber on 22 Dec to close the pool, without due regard to the Council's statutory obligations under the Equalities Act.

5.  During the course of the debate, Cllr Cardownie stated "If I had known that my words were going to be taken literally, I wouldn't of said them in the first instance". Cllr Cardownie was referring to his written amendment tabled in February 2007, and voted on by Full Council, which promised "That Leith Waterworld would remain open up until the new facilities at the refurbished Commonwealth Pool were open to the public."  We believes this comment directly contravenes the Code's advice on leadership: "You have a duty to promote and support these principles by leadership and example, and to maintain and strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of the Council and its councillors in conducting public business."

6. We wish to complain that the amendment was put forward by Cllr Brock (Leith Walk ward and Vice-chair of EL) and seconded by Marjorie Thomas (Leith ward and Board member of EL). The Code of Conduct has the following advice on,

"Appointments to Partner Organisations

3.17     You may be appointed or nominated by the Council as a member of another body or organisation. If so, you will be bound by the rules of conduct of these organisations and your responsibility for any actions taken by you as a member of such an organisation will be to the organisation in question. You must also continue to observe the rules of this Code in carrying out the duties of that body.

3.18 If you become a director of a company as a nominee of the Council you will assume personal responsibilities under the Companies Acts. It is possible that a conflict of interest may arise for you between the company and the Council. In such cases it is your responsibility to take advice on your responsibilities to the Council and to the company. This will include questions of declarations of interest.

5.3 You may feel able to state truthfully that an interest would not influence your role as a councillor in discussion or decision-making. You must, however, always comply with the objective test (“the objective test”) which is whether a member of the public, with knowledge of the relevant facts, would reasonably regard the interest as so significant that it is likely to prejudice your discussion or decision making in your role as a councillor."

We believe that the tabling of this motion by Cllr Brock and Cllr Thomas contravenes the objective test.  We believe the Cllrs were acting in best interest of EL, rather than their constituents.

7. We wish to complain about the lack of respect shown to the Splashback campaigners whilst they delivered their deputation to full council - We have photographic proof of Councillors on their smartphones tweeting throughout our deputation.  We believe that a Councillors job is indeed to report to constituents on events in the Chamber, however if the Consituents are in the Chamber they need to listen and engage with the points raised.  We believe that this contravened the Code of Conduct's advice on Respect,

"You must respect all other councillors and all Council employees and the role they play, treating them with courtesy at all times. Similarly you must respect members of the public when performing duties as a Councillor."

8.  Finally we also note that the Code of Conduct states that "Political group meetings should not be used to decide how councillors should vote on such applications, or on individual staffing matters such as the appointment or discipline of employees. It is a breach of this Code to comply with political group decisions on such matters where these differ from your own views."

We are well aware and have been advised that some of the parties met to discuss and agree their voting intentions prior to the deputation.  Again we wish to complain.

I would like the City of Edinburgh Council to look into each one of my 8 points and reply to each in a written response, with the 10 working days, as set out in the section of "how we deal with your complaints."

Yours faithfully

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Launch of the Homeless Itinerant Bathing Society (Edinburgh Branch)

Splashback! has the pleasure of inviting you to the inauguration of the Homeless Itinerant Bathing Society (Edinburgh Branch) this weekend, (Sunday 15 January)

Since we have been made homeless last weekend, we will now be taking up the opportunity of visiting other swimming pools in the Edinburgh environs each Sunday morning for a swim.  We will be monitoring the additional time required to travel, the temperature of the pool, the friendliness of reception from staff and swimmers, the number of inflatables in the pool, the variance in fun ratio etc...

Do come and join us! - all welcome, young and old - this weekend we will be diving into the( icy!) waters of Leith Victoria, from 10am...

Monday, 9 January 2012

"Campaigners vow not to throw in the towel in fight to save Leith Waterworld"

Round up of articles following the last day of swimming.  Gold medal for best punning headline definitely goes to Ally Tibbet's article for STV!

 STV article: 

"Campaigners vow not to throw in the towel in fight to save Leith Waterworld

"Pool "chock-a-block" in last weekend of opening as one local business worries they could lose up to a quarter of their takings.

More than 700 swimmers from all over the Lothians took the chance to enjoy Leith Waterworld on the last weekend before its final closure.

As campaigners fighting to keep the pool open gathered signatures outside, many expressed sadness that the pool would have to close and said that there was no other pool like it for miles around..."

Edinburgh Evening News article: 

"Waterworld shut but campaigners vow to battle on

Campaigners who battled to save Leith Waterworld today vowed to continue their fight by lodging an official complaint about the way the council has handled the closure.

The protesters carried on collecting signatures on their petition yesterday and enjoyed one last swim before the doors closed on the pool at the end of the day.

But Johnny Gailey of campaign group Splashback insisted the closure would not be the end of the story. He said: “Just because the council has given up on Leith Waterworld doesn’t mean we have...”


Vicky Allan piece in The Herald: 

" In Praise of ... Waterworld

Not the sweaty, over-the-top action flick starring Kevin Costner as a rugged kind of Mad Max on water in search of dry land after the polar ice caps have melted.

But rather, my local swimming pool, Leith Waterworld, which had its own quieter apocalypse when it closed its doors for the last time last weekend, as a result of a financial balancing act by Edinburgh Council, which part-paid for the Commonwealth Pool refurbishment with this closure..."



Sunday, 8 January 2012

Last day... waving not drowning...

A brilliant last day - for all the right reasons... a lot of fun in the waves... Thanks to all the #LeithWaterworld staff... #goodfolk

Here's the Splashback! goodbye soundtrack:  "Water Wonderful World!" on @ShareMyPlaylist. Check it out here

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Freeeeeeeeee Leith Waterworld!

Check the expiry date!

The last weekend of Leith Waterowrld before the Council/Edinburgh Leisure locks the doors on Sunday 8 January.  The Councillors voted against the motion put forward by Cllr Alison Johnstone on 22 December to give Leith Waterworld a stay of execution, at least until the Commie was "open to the public" (as promised by SNP Cllr Cardownie in 2007, and agreed by full Council) and to give them time to undertake and scrutinize the impact closure would have of various user groups.

Just because the Cllrs have given up on Leith Waterworld, it doesn't mean we have.  Splashback! will continue to oppose closure, and highlight the lack of due process within the Council's decision making. The closing date for the sale has been set for February 8th. 

  • We will be making an formal complaint to the Council, regarding behaviour in the Chamber on 22 Dec which we believe contravenes the Councillor's Code of Conduct.
  • We have submitted requests to the Council for the full operating costs of Leith Waterworld under the Freedom of Information Act.  Edinburgh Leisure  refused to release these to us.
  • We have submitted further FOI requests regarding the sale of the ground lease
  • We are looking into potential breaches of due process in regards to the Council's obligations under the Equalities Act 2010, and Energy Performance of Buildings (Scotland) Regulations 2008
  • We will continue to collect signatures, and hand our petition into the Council shortly.
  • We will contnue to man the SUB outside Leith Waterworld this weekend during opening hours - please do drop by and see us!
  • We'll be going for a swim tomorrow!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Lifebelt should have been thrown to swimming centre

Letter to the Evening News

Dear editor

I AM writing you with huge disappointment about the decision to close Leith Waterworld. I attended a full council meeting and watched in disbelief how political agreement overcame rational and emotional thinking.

Many councillors showed understanding of the value and uniqueness of Leith Waterworld in their replies to my e-mails yet all of them apart from the Greens voted for its closure. This is not what they were elected to do – to serve people.

Shutting down a well used amenity, a special place for whole families to be together and spend quality time together, the only suitable pool for babies, toddlers, primary school kids and disabled people, is working against people, not for them.I can’t accept that Edinburgh will trade this place for a little patch on a Royal Commonwealth pool hole. It is a quick fix leading nowhere.

There are many much smaller towns in the UK able to sustain a leisure pool, how come the capital of Scotland can not?

Leith Waterworld should be an investment in kids, their health and happiness.

Anna Mitrovic Kotúcková, Easter Road, Edinburgh