DOUBTS are being expressed over whether Worcester can afford a new £13.5 million swimming pool – with politicians saying they won’t bankrupt the city council to make it happen.
Ahead of a debate next Tuesday over the issue, calls are being made for council chiefs to explore ways of funding the £5.2 million funding gap.
Councillor Liz Smith, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said “we can’t afford something we can’t afford” and she has urged caution over burdening taxpayers with more debt.
As your Worcester News revealed yesterday, a business case has been published suggesting only a scaled-down, non-county standard pool is close to being affordable at the moment.
Coun Smith said: “The funding issue will be here for a long time.
“I don’t want to make an off-the-cuff response, but we can’t afford something we can’t afford, basically.
“If there’s other ways around it, we will have to see, but if we are being asked to back something, it must be affordable.”
Other politicians said they wanted council leaders to explore help from potential third parties, like the university.
Councillor Paul Denham, deputy leader of the Labour group, said: “It would seem short-sighted to build a pool which is newer, but no better than the one at Sansome Walk.
“Having a county-standard one is preferable, but it has to be sensible as taxpayers will pick up the borrowing costs.
“Borrowing more is not an option. The problem is I don’t know where the money will come from.”
The Conservative leadership is due to make an announcement early next week about the next move.
Councillor Andy Roberts, cabinet member for finance, said: “We are committed to this and want it to host races and competitions, but we’ve got to take finances into consideration.
“I am not pre-judging anything but I guess the council will ask us to explore ways of meeting the funding gap.”
The report says a non-county standard £10.7 million pool has a funding gap of £192,000, compared to £5.2 million for a county-standard one.
Both options will require borrowing of about £7-10 million, paid back over 40 years at four per cent interest.
Once a new pool is built, the one in Sansome Walk will be demolished and the land sold, with £500,000 being added to the funding pot.