WESTBURY Swimming Club has been left out of pocket over the swimming pool’s closure last year, with no compensation forthcoming from Wiltshire Council.
Westbury Swimming Pool was closed for eight weeks in 2012 for maintenance. But the work was deemed unsatisfactory and the pool was closed for a further three and a half months last year, in 2013.
The community swimming club was severely affected, having to find sessions at other pools and bear the extra costs involved. Its membership numbers also suffered.
Wiltshire Council has ‘reached an agreement’ with its contractor to recover costs for the additional work – but it will not pass any of this money on to the club.
Furthermore, the club says it was encouraged to make a compensation claim to the council, but has now been told it will not be reimbursed for the £3,000 requested.
Neil Tribick, of the club explained, “When the pool was closed, we had a high level meeting with senior management from the council, and during that meeting we were assured the council did not want the club to be out of pocket.
“We asked for compensation to cover the increased cost of taking training sessions elsewhere, a certain amount for loss of membership – because after the pool closed for the lengthy period between March and June we found we’d lost members.”
Neil says he accepts the first closure may have been necessary, but the second closure could have been avoided – and the club has suffered as a result.
He continued, “It is extremely disappointing. The council must be claiming compensation from the contractor, and our amount must be very small out of the overall claim.
“This is a community club run entirely by volunteers, we’re self-sustaining from subscriptions and people’s free time. We know there is nothing contractually, but we thought it would be nice from a moral viewpoint [for the council] to make that gesture. For us to raise £3,000 takes an awful lot of effort.
“Basically, they have washed their hands of it, apart from a few throwaway comments about helping us to increase our membership – and those ideas are things we are doing already.”
A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said, “During the period of the pool closure we fully supported Westbury Swimming Club and made every effort to help them find additional pool space in Wiltshire. This support has continued since the pool re-opened including offering to help the club attract and secure new members
“We made it clear that any claim for compensation would have to be sought from DC Leisure (the council’s contracted service provider) as the club’s booking agreement is with them and not with Wiltshire Council. However, we understand that DC Leisure has also confirmed that their booking conditions does not provide compensation in instances such as these.
“The delayed re-opening of the pool was clearly regrettable, but we are delighted that leisure and club swimmers in Westbury are continuing to enjoy this historic facility.”
Was original contract adequate?
A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said, “Wiltshire Council has reached an agreement with the contractor to recover costs for the additional work which resulted in the pool being closed for longer than originally planned. The council was only able to claim for the costs relating to the delay.”
But Neil Tribick asks, “Does that tend to suggest that they did not have adequate terms and conditions in place with the contractor? With contracts of this nature, penalty clauses are common and they ratchet up according to the nature and length of delay.
“However, costs they refer to could have included loss of income, as the pool lost all its income as a result of the delay.
“Had it not been for the unstinting efforts of our coaches, committee and parents to ensure we found pool space elsewhere, this club which is 116 years old, could have folded during the closure. That would have meant the council would have spent £300,000 renovating the pool and it would have lost its major customer and would have become completely financially unviable.
“The club is disappointed that no financial help has been offered, in view of the position the council’s senior representatives expressed during the closure period. They seem worried about setting precedents, but unless remediation work is so poor in the future at other properties, the issue of precedent should not come into it.”