The row over proposals to close community halls across Clydesdale is rumbling on

​The row over South Lanarkshire Council's plans to close several community halls across Clydesdale is rumbling on, with allegations that the consultation is a sham.
The list of facilities under threat of closure was leaked to local communitiesThe list of facilities under threat of closure was leaked to local communities
The list of facilities under threat of closure was leaked to local communities

Councillor Ralph Barker has posted on social media that closures of the facilities earmarked by the council will start on April 1. Despite the date, this is no April Fools joke!

The council has maintained its stance that phase three of the public consultation is now underway and only once that is complete will decisions be taken.

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However, others are saying that it’s a done deal, with anger being directed at the council over their announcement of a new leisure centre being built at Larkhall, originally at a figure of £11.9m, but now it is believed that a further £12m will be required to complete the project, due to open in 2027.

Fingers are being pointed at the council over the inequality being exhibited, while Clydesdale community assets are under threat.

MJ Jane commented on the Quothquan and Thankerton Community Council (QTCC) social pages as to why the council position is such a mess.

She said: “Why are communities being backed into a corner: community ownership or nothing.

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"That requires going upstream, and goes beyond the scope of this particular paragraph. But one thing that does spring to mind is the massive debt incurred through private funding schemes, that are eating up huge chunks of council budgets.

"These private funding initiatives were used to build things like schools and hospitals. The idea being that a private business funded the initial build, and the council “rented” the building back until it gained full ownership, in some cases.

"Should we now be approaching these private firms and asking for better rental agreements? Should we be seeking more rights for the renter - in this case the council? Is it now time that we stood up for our council budget and said ‘we demand better treatment’?

"It is a bigger fight than a local village hall! But it is starting to get to the root of the problem; not merely putting a plaster on it.”

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The council have always made it very clear that they simply do not have the necessary funding to maintain and run the amount of community assets they have, and that this is the reason they are running the consultation. The problem arises when information leaks that suggest the council may well have already come to a decision outwith the consultation, which angers local rural communities that their voice is meaningless.

Angus Milner Brown commented on QTCC saying: “In my opinion halls are a critical service in our rural areas, don’t be fooled by lack of usage. This is engineered by the council in part by deliberate underinvestment, pricing out of regular groups and reducing easy access by limited hall keeping cover, over zealous licensing regulation and in the case of our hall preventing it’s use as a hall by refusing to fix the kitchen for months. We need a polling place, we need a place for regular meetings and many other activities…Do we need three halls in a community… probably not…we need one very good one.”

The council, in response to our enquiries, made it clear that the image shown here (above) was merely one of many used in a presentation to elected members, and does not portray the context in which it was shown.

​A spokesperson for South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture said: “Unprecedented budget pressures mean some extraordinarily difficult decisions are having to be made across public services. This includes South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture, which, as well as our existing financial gap, is facing a potential £1 million reduction in the income we receive from its biggest funder South Lanarkshire Council, which itself is having to save more than £20m this year.

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“Through three public consultations, we have asked local people to help us prioritise the services we provide. These have helped us consider the potential withdrawal of our service from some facilities as a possible saving, and affected staff have been informed of this.

“The final decision will be taken by the Board of South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture after South Lanarkshire Council’s budget meeting on 21 February where a decision on the reduction in South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture’s management fee will be taken.

“If the withdrawal of SLLC from any facilities is agreed, we will work together to assist the community in finding ways in which it can continue to operate the services.”

This article on our news website also gives further detail and context:

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On Larkhall Leisure Centre, Council Leader Joe Fagan said: “The current Larkhall Leisure Centre is ageing and in a poor condition. It is also extremely expensive to run. Replacing it has been a council priority for many years, and the administration I lead is now delivering on that pledge, with a plan to build a modern, energy-efficient facility funded between now and 2027 by using money from our capital programme over a number of years. This is a sensible investment that will contribute to health and wellbeing for generations to come.

“We have been able to do this, and fulfil our promises, even though the funding being received from the Scottish Government has been sharply declining. Our capital grant from the government for 2024-25 is down £1.9m compared with 2023-24. That’s a fall of about 9%.

“It is simply wrong to conflate the leisure centre project with how the council and SLLC are tackling the separate issue of reducing running costs of existing facilities. The building of a new leisure centre comes under capital spending, so the costs have no impact on the need to make difficult choices within our revenue budget, which is entirely separate. In fact, the law prohibits us from mixing capital and revenue funds.”

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