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Olympia: Dundee council leader vows swimming pools WILL reopen as MSP calls for inquiry

John Alexander and Michael Marra have clashed over the Olympia's ongoing closure.
John Alexander and Michael Marra have clashed over the Olympia's ongoing closure.

The leader of Dundee City Council has vowed that the Olympia swimming pools will reopen – but has rebuffed calls for an inquiry into their ongoing closure.

The facilities have been shut since October 13 over what operator Leisure and Culture Dundee says is an “unexpected lighting issue”.

But it emerged this week that the pools could stay shut until December or beyond, as a report on the problem is prepared for councillors.

The exact nature of the issue, along with the cost of fixing it, has not been confirmed despite repeated questions to Leisure and Culture Dundee by The Courier.

That has prompted calls for more transparency by local councillors.

Now, Michael Marra – a North East Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour councillor in Dundee – has called for an independent probe into the £31.5 million building, which opened in 2013.

Councillor Michael Marra.

He said: “The Olympia building has been bedevilled with issues since practically the day it opened only eight years ago.

“It was built at significant expense to the taxpayers and has been hugely popular – when it has been open.

“The ongoing and repeated costs absorbed by city taxpayers is intolerable.

“It now looks like Olympia will be closed for months.

“With no money coming through the tills, losses are already mounting.

The Olympia’s swimming pools may be closed for months.

“What is particularly challenging is that this centre runs at a profit that subsidises other services and facilities.

“Without that money coming through the tills there will be a growing black hole for an organisation which has suffered significant budget cuts under the SNP.

“We cannot allow other services to suffer. This latest closure is the final straw.”

He added: “We now need an independent inquiry into the building and the huge costs incurred since it has opened.

“The council should consider any legal options open to recouping taxpayers’ money spent on the upkeep of a seriously flawed building.”

Inquiry call ‘blatantly absurd’ – council leader

But John Alexander, who heads up the council’s SNP-led administration, has hit back at Mr Marra’s comments, calling them “absurd”.

He said: “A report has yet to be shared with councillors setting out the detail of work required, costs and other details.

“Asking for an inquiry before you have any information is blatantly absurd.

“Sadly, Councillor Marra has a track record of making claims before having the facts.

It is going to get fixed and will reopen as soon as that has happened – without question.”

Council leader John Alexander

“You just have to look at his previous comments related to the Lynch Centre as an example of that, where he claimed it was being mothballed when, in fact, we worked in partnership to deliver the Change Centre with Street Soccer.

“These comments are either ignorant or ill-informed as this SNP-led council has provided a letter of comfort to underwrite Leisure and Culture Dundee to the tune of £3m because of Covid; there is no ‘black hole’.

“We have also provided £6m in our capital plan to support Leisure and Culture Dundee.

“We work in partnership with LACD and they are one of our key partners.

Council leader John Alexander .

“While the closure of the pool is unhelpful, there are eight community pools right across Dundee that we can utilise in the meantime.

“The bottom line is that there is a problem that needs fixed, it is going to get fixed and will reopen as soon as that has happened – without question.”

When asked to respond to Mr Marra’s comments, both Leisure and Culture Dundee and Dundee City Council referred The Courier to statements made earlier in the week.

The operator – an arm’s-length body that runs facilities on behalf of the council – said in a statement: “As a result of ongoing survey and investigation work, the pools at Olympia will remain closed until further notice.

“A report will be brought to the next (Dundee City Council) city development committee, on December 6, outlining next steps for planned upgrading and refurbishment works including various items of plant and equipment, also included will be the estimated closure period.”

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