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Calls for action after Dundee City Council goes quiet on promised Olympia probe

Dundee City Council's leader announced an independent investigation into the troubled leisure centre - but nothing has happened since, prompting concerns.

The Olympia leisure centre in Dundee. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson
The Olympia leisure centre in Dundee. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

The starting gun on an inquiry into the Olympia repair debacle has yet to sound almost a month after it was announced, prompting calls for action.

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander, announced an inquiry to establish why there had been repeated blunders related to leaks, faults and dangers at the leisure centre, which cost taxpayers millions of pounds to resolve.

That was on March 1 – and the council’s ruling SNP group has not said anything public about it since.

Now, rivals want answers – especially because parts of Olympia remain shut.

Opposition Labour group leader Kevin Keenan, has written to Mr Alexander asking key questions.

‘A complete embarrassment’

The letter said: “Olympia, from its first closure, continues to be a complete embarrassment for Dundee and this needs to be addressed.

Councillor Kevin Keenan.

“(Are) you are in a position to share your own views, the name of the person you see leading this inquiry along with estimated costs and timescale to conclusion?”

It is understood that Mr Alexander tried to get permission to raise the matter at a meeting of councillors earlier this month.

But he was unable to under rules governing standing orders and so the next option is taking it to the City Governance Committee.

Mr Alexander said: “The earliest the committee could consider my motion to approve an independent investigation is April 22.

Dundee Olympia inquiry ‘critical in ensuring confidence’

“At that meeting, I will present a motion, that I hope will receive unanimous support from across the political to take this forward.”

He added: “The identification of an appropriate individual to lead this work will be critical in ensuring confidence in the process and transparency on the issues that have led to the Olympia’s closure.”

If the committee votes in favour of a probe, civil servants will be able to find an appropriate person or organisation to lead it, with councillors having the final say on who will be in charge.

Labour called for a probe in December 2021 but the SNP said no.

But things abruptly changed last month when almost 400 people signed a petition in favour of an inquiry.

Baby oil and a decade to repair

In the same month, The Courier revealed new details about Olympia, including that staff had been advised to deal with condensation with baby oil and some repairs took a decade to resolve.

Labour believes the SNP could have saved taxpayers’ money if they had sanctioned an inquiry earlier.

Olympia was forced to close its pools at the start of February
Some pools at the Olympia remain closed. Image: Alan Richardson

In his letter, Mr Keenan said: “I know that hindsight is a wonderful thing but, back in 2021, we would have been in a better position financially to support an in-depth independent inquiry given we have seen £36m of cuts since 2021.

“The Olympia’s over £6m refit and the roof £4.5m refit quality issues have been, and continue to be, extremely reputationally damaging to the council.

“The council would be £10.5m better off.”

‘A distinct lack of knowledge’

Mr Keenan wants the probe to establish how the council will ensure how it can put people with the right skills in charge of running its pools in future.

In the letter, he said: “I am increasing uncomfortable with the distinct lack of knowledge and understanding there is within council of how to run a pool complex.

“I believe these skill shortages need to be addressed.

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander.

“Should there have been an adequate quality assurance system in Dundee contract services and a regular system of repair and a maintenance/programme of works at Olympia?”

Mr Keenan added he would like the investigation to establish whether the correct materials were used to build Olympia, why faults took a decade to fix and why only some consultants’ reports were published.

‘A breakdown in communication’

He also thinks the public should know which bosses have made decisions on Olympia since 2013, who was ultimately responsible for repairs and whether there was “a complete breakdown in communication” between the council and Leisure & Culture Dundee.

Mr Keenan added: “The independent inquiry you have called for must be completely open and transparent if it is to restore public confidence.

“That is why I have made the suggestions as to the areas that should be drilled into by the inquiry.”

Olympia pools closed
The Olympia leisure centre. Image: Alan Richardson

In response, Mr Alexander said: “As well as providing answers and clarity, the investigation must provide concrete recommendations to prevent any repeat of issues that have plagued the Olympia over the last few years.

“Finally, the investigation must have the time to consider the issues, whilst ensuring it doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time as other investigations have done.

“People need to be able to trust that the process has been robust and provides answers sooner, rather than later.”